This article was written by a Western-Sydney Pastor.
As part of the judgement in a recent hearing in the federal court, Justice Griffiths pointed out that there is an exemption clause in the NSW Health Orders (Clause 7.2).
After discovering this clause and having been concerned for the well-being of our congregation for some time, some men from our church applied for an exemption to hold a single outdoor worship service on Sunday the 12th of September. We offered to have masks worn, social distancing, hand sanitiser, a record of attendees, and staggered entrance and exit to ensure there was no congestion.
The application was lodged on Monday the 6th of September and we received a response from the Department of Health two days later on Wednesday the 8th. We were assured that our “request was assessed by a senior NSW Health Medical Officer acting as a delegate of the Minister for Health and Medical Research”.
Our request was rejected which was “a necessary action to protect all people of NSW, including those who would be at grave risk should they contract COVID-19.”
We were told that because of the great risk of COVID-19, “a person must not participate in an outdoor gathering of more than 2 people (subject to limited exceptions).”
An ordered, socially distanced church service was apparently not one of those exceptions.
But we discovered on Saturday that according to the Minister for Health and Medical Research himself, Brad Hazzard, going to the beach in droves is an exception to the rule.
When asked what he thought of hundreds of people gathering on local beaches in Sydney’s suburbs, Brad Hazzard stated that “the fresh air is actually–we know it is the safest place to be at the present time. Dr. Chant and Dr. McAnulty have talked about that many times.”
Clearly, our Health Department thinks that going to the beach is essential and a blind eye should be turned to any transgressions of Health Orders by beachgoers but ordered outdoor church services are a great risk to public health.
Imagine for a moment if Sydney churches were permitted to hold outdoor worship services as has been done around the world throughout this pandemic (see here and here for example).
Imagine worshippers gathering in church car parks, on church lawns, or in local parks. Imagine the hope that the public preaching of the gospel would offer to a city full of people who are fearful and suffering.
Public outdoor church services would benefit public health in a way that a trip to the beach just can’t do.
So, what can you do about these double standards?
- We encourage you to email the Premier, the Health Minister and any other State MP’s pointing out this double standard and requesting the reopening of churches.
- We encourage you to apply for an exemption for your church to hold an outdoor service this week. Quote Brad Hazzard’s words in your application. You can apply for an exemption by going here. Scroll to bottom of page click “No” to “Do you have a reasonable excuse to leave home?” and fill out details of your exemption request. If you’d like to help in the fight to get our churches open, send any response you get to your exemption to email@example.com.
- If you believe corporate gathered worship is an essential part of Christianity and an essential service to the community, read and sign the Moses Statement.
If your application for an outdoor worship service fails, you could always hold a service on the beach in your swimmers.