The New South Wales government has legislated restrictions on worship, limiting the number of those who can sing and requiring all congregants to wear face coverings.
Brad Hazzard, the NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research, made the Order on February 25 under section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010.
The Public Health (COVID-19) Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2021 states, churches must ensure the maximum number of performers singing is limited to 30 people, that all persons in a place of public worship where congregants are singing wear a face covering, and that no more than 1 person per 4 square metres, or 25 persons, be allowed in the premises.
The order states:
15 “The Minister directs that the occupier of premises in which there is singing in an indoor area must ensure the maximum number of performers singing is 30.”
16(2) “The Minister directs that the occupier of premises that is a place of public worship must not allow more persons to be in a relevant area of the premises than — (a) the number of persons that is equivalent to 1 person per 4 square metres of space in the premises, or (b) 25 persons.”
16(3) “The Minister directs that the occupier of premises that is a place of worship must ensure that all persons in a relevant area of the premises must wear a fitted face covering…”
Are we still expected to believe these restrictions are all about public health and safety?
If hundreds can laugh out loud while eating and drinking inside a full-capacity cinema, if thousands can sing along at a packed concert, if tens-of-thousands can chant and cheer in a stadium-full of unmasked rowdy sports fans, then why are these arbitrary restrictions being placed upon the church?
Does the virus care whether a crowd of 31 people sing Christian hymns rather than a sporting team’s anthem? Does the virus care whether a crowd of 31 people sing Christian hymns rather than a crowd of fans singing along with an Australian rock band in concert?
Dominic Steele, of Villiage Church Annandale, raised this very question with the Health Minister in a letter later published on social media.
“Why can’t more than 30 people sing without masks in church when 1,700 were singing last night without masks at a Midnight Oil concert with no social distancing?” Steele asked.
“My social media feeds today include video of last night’s gig by Midnight Oil at the Enmore Theatre,” he added. “While at places of worship we are only allowed to have 30 people singing without masks, last night there were 1,700 singing without masks at the Oils gig.”
Steele went on to warn that the state’s arbitrary and hypocritical restrictions are damaging the government’s reputation in the eyes of the public, and in particular, Christians.
“You may not be aware of what is going on at the coal face, but people of faith are now laughing at the blatant hypocrisy and double standards currently being applied by the government,” Steele said.
“As a result, goodwill towards your government and NSW Health is evaporating each day that this hypocrisy is allowed to continue.”
And as this hypocrisy becomes increasingly evident, many in the pews are left scratching their heads, wondering why it is church leaders are so reluctant to do what they know is right – what the Lord has commanded.
And singing has been commanded. Not silently. Not within the mind. Not privately at home. But with “one another,” and “in the assembly of the godly.”
- Ephesians 5:18-21 “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
- Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
- Psalm 149:1 “Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!”
- Psalm 9:11 “Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!”
- Psalm 95:1-2 “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”
At this point, perhaps the best course of action would be to remind the government that the church does not need the state’s permission to do that which the Lord has commanded.
As Francis Schaeffer put it almost 40-years-ago: “When a government commands something that is contrary to the law of God it abrogates its authority. And at that point, it becomes not only the privilege, but the duty of the Christian to disobey that government.”