covid-19 advice & updates

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2022

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PASTORAL LETTER FROM BISHOP PHILIP

14 April 2022

E te Whānau a te Karaiti, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With the introduction of the traffic light framework, our diocese has allowed congregations and ministry units to keep in step with the changing requirements while also encouraging every community to move at a pace that is locally informed and safe for them.
Our required Covid-19 management changed at 23:59 on 13 April to the Orange Light with the following key points:
no limit for indoor or outdoor gatherings and no required social distancing
encouragement, but no, requirement to wear a face mask at a gathering
workers and volunteers at gatherings must wear face masks.
(Click HERE for more details of the Government requirements).
Congregations are strongly encouraged to continue to wear masks, particularly when singing. Omicron is an airborne infection, continuing to wear a mask protects the vulnerable within our congregations. It is also recommended that, as far as practical, we continue to ventilate buildings with open windows and open doors.
With little preparation time before Easter, for many churches it will be appropriate not to change the plans already in place. If your church wishes to relax the way in which services are managed, I have the following advice:
Ensure there is a clearly indicated area of the church where those who need or wish to be social distanced from others can do so.
If you have any doubts, and until your community can change safely, continue to offer communion in one kind and to observe social distancing.
Continue with good cleaning and keeping up healthy habits.
Under the Orange Light, whether and when to offer the chalice to all communicants is a local decision for vestry or church council. This may need more preparation than is possible before Easter.
As a more cautious interim measure, I am suggesting the use of small disposable plastic or paper cups. If glass cups are to be used, they must be properly sterilized before and after use.
Intinction is not permitted in the Diocese. It is a high-risk practice.
The chalice for administering communion wine may be shared with communicants. The chalice, wiped properly, with high alcohol content wine (greater than 18% alcohol), administered by a person properly masked, is a low risk when shared. The primary risk with Omicron is airborne transmission and hence the requirement for workers and volunteers, and encouragement for all others, to continued masking for our gatherings.
If you wish to offer communion in both kinds, you may do so long as this is clearly an option that people opt into, rather than a situation where they have to refuse. For example, use two lines; one for the bread and one for the wine so that a person can chose to simply return to their seat rather than joining the line for the wine.
Anxiety levels in each ministry unit vary and should be considered in the decision-making. It is completely appropriate to continue to offer Communion in one kind only for as long as we remain under Orange. Remember since at least the Council of Trent the teaching of the Church has been that the Christ is fully present in either the bread or the wine (concomitance).
As I also said earlier in the week, we always begin from the point of asking how we care for the most vulnerable in our communities. The safest and most appropriate option for some will be not to change immediately. Only change as you are ready.
With gratitude and love as you navigate this next change.
+Philip

COVID PROTECTION FRAMEWORK POLICY

PLEASE NOTE - THE NEW POLICY IS NOW AVAILABLE

AN INTRODUCTION

“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:4

 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself”         

Matthew 22:37-39

As a consequence of the Government announcement of the move to the COVID Protection Framework from 3 December 2021 we need to revise our guidance and planning accordingly. This document provides an overview of more detailed Policy Guidance which will be available next week following final Government announcements. Current Government guidance can be primarily found here https://covid19.govt.nz/alert-levels-and-updates/traffic-light-system/. However, it should be noted that guidance found on other Government websites also apply to faith organisations. For example, all regulations relating to events and gatherings apply to us and many of the regulations relating to businesses also apply. Our Diocesan guidance will seek to capture all these aspects and will constantly be updated.

The Diocese is in the process of finalising our COVID Protection Framework policy.  This detailed document will be available at some point in the week beginning 29 November following final Government announcements. Significant detail is still being developed by Government and changes to existing material on government websites are happening all the time.

While the shift to the COVID Protection Framework may seem challenging, we are confident that once we have our Diocesan and local planning in place for each of the “Traffic Light” levels we will be able to develop rhythms of gathering that will become familiar and manageable. Considerably more freedom will be enjoyed, but greater care will also be required. We encourage you to keep these things in mind:

  • We are a family in God who are followers of Christ – our strength comes from our commitment to one another.
  • Care for your neighbour, especially the most vulnerable
  • Express our gratitude to God for being able to gather when so many in the world cannot.
  • Continue to keep it simple, begin with what you know you can manage and gradually expand what you offer. We will offer advice and share experience.
  • Be kind, tolerant and patient towards each other, especially those who are feeling particularly vulnerable or who hold different views from you.

It is challenging to hold together principles of safety, inclusion and the public good. As we establish our Diocesan policies within Government COVID Protection framework and the relevant Public Health Orders we are acutely aware that any decision excludes people from worship and fellowship and that exclusion is the opposite of the inclusion that Churches seek to foster. We need to do everything we can to mitigate decisions that exclude anyone from aspects of the life and practice of our local Churches. Just as we need to do everything we can to keep our most vulnerable people safe.

Given that final Guidance is still to come, if you are feeling that you cannot adjust to the required Covid level under the COVID Protection Framework by next Sunday and you have an Action Plan for operating under the current Level 2 then use that – It will be very close to what is required under Orange for non-vaccination mandated gatherings - you will be restricted to 50 people. Let the Bishop’s Office know: bishopspa@wtanglican.nz

KEY MESSAGES & DIOCESAN POLICY PRINCIPLES

  1. Public Health Measures: People within ministry units and other diocesan places of work will use public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including vaccinations, contact tracing, physical distancing, face coverings, ventilation, restricted gathering numbers, personal and venue hygiene, and work from home where recommended.
  2. Use of vaccination certificates for all gatherings, events and meetings will be mandated as the norm in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki. This option provides the greatest safety for all and particularly the most vulnerable and it gives the greatest freedoms within the event or gathering itself. (For example, under both Green and Orange levels food and drink are permitted. Singing will be permitted, although the wearing of masks is strongly recommended. The NZ Choral Federation have mask designs for choirs. This Virus spreads in water particles.) This Policy setting is based on:
    1. Government health order;
    2. The Government’s COVID-19 protection framework levels; 
    3. The agreement of the Bishops of the New Zealand Dioceses that this will be the norm for all services events and gatherings in Dioceses. (See the full message from the Bishops below.)

      However it is very important to know now that there is provision for you to apply to offer worship services where there is no proof of vaccination either regularly or as a one-off gathering if any Ministry Unit or Minister believes it is / they are called to do so by completing the exemption form. It is possible to host both vaccinated and unvaccinated gatherings on the same premises subject to physical separation, cleaning, and gaps in time, etc – further information will be provided on this. It is intended to have simple accessible systems for developing a safety plan which will be required in such circumstances and for seeking the exemption. Details of this policy will follow in the full Policy Guidance document.
  3. Vaccinations will be mandated for
    1. Roles subject to a government health order; and
    2. All clergy who hold a licence or Permission to Officiate; and
    3. Any person performing a role which, following formal diocesan risk assessment, is deemed that vaccinations should be mandated.

      Full details of this policy will follow in the Policy Guidance document. These details will include information on how this policy can be handled pastorally in cases where either by choice or medical requirement the individual is not vaccinated. A risk assessment process will be supported by the Diocese in each case.

The full Policy Guidance document will cover many areas of detail, and it will also offer guidance about how to implement in your local setting and how to handle the pastoral challenges that living in these times bring with them. However, our hope is that these introductory pages will give a sense of direction.

Please be patient, because the reality is that we are still seeking government clarification on a number of areas which are very important for our policy development. All Policy Settings will be completely reviewed in March 2022, adaptations will be made as required. We welcome your feedback and advice. Please make any recommendations and submit any questions to bishopspa@wtanglican.nz.

SUMMARY

  • A detailed policy document [has now been] prepared.
  • No solution or policy will be perfect. Our key principles are safety, care of the vulnerable, love for our neighbour, and the common good.
  • Observing public health measures is critical.
  • There will be two pathways – the normative or a negotiated provision.
  • Vaccinations will be mandatory (as described above).


VACCINATION

The Inter Church Bioethics Council ("ICBC") has released a statement on the Covid-19 vaccines. We provide this information to you for your consideration. The Interchurch Bioethics Council draws its members from within the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Aotearoa-New Zealand, with members bringing expertise in science, medicine, theology, ethics, education and cultural understanding.

August 29: Dr Rob Bevan announces that the nation's ICU infrastructure is "absolutely reliant on the vaccine uptake being as close to 100% as possible." (Dr Rob Bevan is an Intensivist and supervisor of training at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, and the current vice president of the Australia New Zealand College of Intensive Care Medicine.)

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