"We value living lives that are fully dependent on God in obedience to Christ and the Bible."

Baptist Churches Western Australia has been providing regular updates to Church Pastors and Ministry Leaders regarding COVID-19 and its impact on member churches. Below, you will find excerpts from communications that have been sent in chronological order.

31 March 2020 | Update 7 | Stimulus Package for churches

Many of you are probably now aware of the Government's stimulus package for small and medium sized businesses and not-for-profit entities, including charities (i.e. churches).

Please see linked Fact Sheet from the Australian Government relating to the Cash Flow Assistance.

Not-for-profit entities (NFPs), including charities, with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers are eligible. This means that eligible entities will receive at least $20,000 up to a maximum of $100,000.

The cash flow boost provides a tax-free payment to employers and is automatically calculated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) upon lodgement of your BAS. There are no new forms required.

  • The payment will be delivered by the ATO as an automatic credit in the activity statement system from 28 April 2020 upon employers lodging eligible upcoming activity statements.
  • Eligible employers that withhold tax to the ATO on their employees’ salary and wages will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of the amount withheld, up to a maximum payment of $50,000.
  • Eligible employers that pay salary and wages will receive a minimum payment of $10,000, even if they are not required to withhold tax.

It is our understanding the minimum available is $20,000 in total and this should apply to most of our churches. Some will receive more based on their tax withheld up to a maximum of $100,000 between April and October.

We believe that most churches will fall within either the Help for the Homeless Op-Shop or the Tim’s Courier Run examples in the attached Fact Sheet.  (Churches with withholding tax over $10,000 for the January – March quarter will receive more).

For most churches this means the church will receive a credit of $10,000 on the January – March BAS.  This money will be received by the church in April once the BAS has been lodged. There will then be a further credit of $5,000 on the April – June BAS.  This money will be received by the church in July once the BAS has been lodged. And a further credit of $5,000 on the July – September BAS.  This money will be received by the church in October once the BAS has been lodged.

Breaking News – Job Keeper Payment - Mon 30 March

The Prime Minister announced further support for businesses, including not-for-profits/charities.

See the following link:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-30/coronavirus-wage-subsidies-government-businesses-workers/12103108

$1,500-per-fortnight JobKeeper payment for employees of businesses who have lost 30 per cent (or 50 per cent for businesses with annual earnings of $1 billion).

The idea is that the employer pays the employees this flat rate, provided they were on the books as of March 1, and the Government would reimburse those businesses. People eligible to receive the $1,500 payment include:

  • Full-time workers
  • Part-time workers
  • Casual employees who have been with their employer for at least 12 months
  • Sole traders
  • New Zealanders on 444 visas

https://www.ato.gov.au/general/gen/JobKeeper-payment/

https://www.business.gov.au/risk-management/emergency-management/coronavirus-information-and-support-for-business/jobkeeper-payment

30 March 2020 | Update 6 | Additional Limits on Places of Worship

On Sunday 29 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that new restrictions for social gatherings would take place, with states and territories to enforce them.

Public gatherings, excluding household members, have been reduced to a maximum of two people.

Everyone should stay home unless you are: shopping for essentials, receiving medical care, exercising or travelling to work or education.

The State Government has already indicated that as of 12noon, 23 March that places of worship must shut, other than for the purposes of a wedding or funeral with the following additional guidelines;

  1. Weddings with a maximum attendance of no more than 5 people and where the 1 person per 4 square metre of floor space rule applies. (Celebrant, couple being married and two witnesses)
  2. Funerals attended by a maximum of no more than 10 people and where the 1 person per 4 square of floor space metre rule applies.

Due to the new statement from the Prime Minister, we are of the understanding that the only people that remain in a church building, are employed staff.  

As previously stated, it is clear from the measures above, the multiple requests from health professionals, and the community at large that there is an expectation that people will remain in their homes unless they are: shopping for essentials, receiving medical care, exercising or travelling to work or education.

We acknowledge that this new change will have an impact on churches who are providing their church communities with streaming services that included volunteers producing content such as worship songs, sound and media desks etc.

To meet these restrictions, we are advising that churches move toward recording online material and only engaging employees of the church to assist with recording while also abiding by the new 2 persons rule, and the ongoing requirement for 4m2 per person.

We also encourage churches to consider only using designated church office space for activities including streaming/recording so that it is in line with workplace rules.   This will avoid potential misperception that churches are operating despite the restrictions (by using auditoriums/halls etc.).  

In foreshadowing further restrictions, churches could start to consider the option of pre-recording sermons from private residences to comply with the following Government direction

Additional Resources

7 Hints for Speaking to Camera
Karl Faase from Olive tree Media has provided pastors and ministry leaders with some helpful advice on his seven hints for speaking to the camera. https://vimeo.com/401232380

Sermon Videos
Members of the Baptist Churches Western Australia team are currently working on a series of short video messages/sermons that will be made available to churches. A future email communication will be sent out about this in the coming week.

Please be assured that we continue to pray for your church and its ministry to your community.

23 March 2020 | Update 5 | Places of Worship

As we continue to keep you updated on our on-going planning and response to the risks associated with the coronavirus, along with further restrictions the Australian Government are implementing - we have an update regarding Places of Worship.

But first, it was so encouraging to see Sunday services streamed across Facebook and other various media channels over the weekend. We thank you for your commitment during this pandemic to continue to keep the hope and love of Jesus Christ burning bright in our communities.

Currently, as of 23 March 2020 the Australian Government has issued all Places of Worship are to close from midday today, Monday, 23 March 2020 in an effort to contain COVID-19.

Mr Morrison stated as part of Stage One restrictions;

“Australians should expect these measures to be in place for at least 6 months.

The following facilities will be restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues 
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

Isolated remote community hubs are not included in these restrictions.

Other facilities are not impacted, but will be considered under stage 2 restrictions, if necessary.

These measures also apply to outdoor spaces associated with the above venues.

Other facilities are not impacted, but will be considered under stage 2 restrictions, if necessary.

Leaders noted that these enhanced measures build on existing measures to slow the virus and save lives:

  • No non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside.
  • All non-essential indoor gatherings of less than 100 people must have no more than one person per 4sqm. All Australians should expect their local businesses to be following this rule.
  • Where possible, keep 1.5 metres between yourself and others
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Restrictions on entering aged care homes to protect older Australians

Leaders acknowledged that these new restrictions will change the way we live and expressed deep regret for those business owners and employees who will be impacted. The goal is to reduce the spread of the virus, to flatten the curve and to save the lives of fellow Australians.

State Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed they would give effect to these restrictions through their own legislative processes and make announcements accordingly .”

At this point in time, Mr McGowan is yet to confirm further details regarding these restrictions specifically for Western Australia. We will endeavour to keep you updated as this information is released.

This announcement will impact many in our communities, we encourage you to keep communications open within your congregation during these difficult times.  For available services to assist you with this please refer to our previous correspondence which can be located on our website click here.

How incredibly blessed and somewhat reassuring that during this pandemic we have a Prime Minister who is calling on the Lord - let’s continue to commit Mr Morrison and the leaders he is working with before the Lord.

As Mr Morrison stated in Parliament this morning;

“And I’ll say this, while you may not be able to go to church, the synagogue, the temple or the mosque, I most certainly call on all people of faith for you to pray. I can assure you, my prayer knees are getting a good work out."

It is clear from the measures above, the multiple requests from health professionals, and the community at large that there is an expectation and a hope that people will meet in person only when necessary.  It is a call to put the needs of others first. 

We are currently gathering additional information to assist with guidance on things such as providing pastoral support to your congregation; online and digital environments; employer obligations; working from home; and networking arrangements (idea hubs).  We encourage all pastors to stay connected within their peer groups, and the various online forums such as Facebook, to network ideas together and share resources, ideas and experiences. 

This morning a number of our team at the Baptist Ministry Centre paused to intentionally pray for our Pastors, Churches, Ministries including Campsites, Vose, Baptistcare, Schools… the whole Baptist Family. We prayed this verse from Philippians 4:7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If there is anyway we can assist, please do not hesitate to touch base with the Baptist Ministry Centre.

20 March 2020 | Update 4 | Indoor Gatherings FURTHER Restrictions 

 As we continue to keep you updated on our on-going planning and response to the risks associated with the coronavirus, along with further restrictions the Australian Government are implementing - we have an update regarding non-essential gatherings.

Currently, as of 20 March 2020 the Australian Government has issued all non-essential gatherings of 100 people or less are currently restricted to one person, per every four square meters in an effort to contain COVID-19.

Mr Morrison stated,  “If you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, that’s 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room,”.

This again, will challenge and require us to assess the way we “do church” and potentially the plans we’ve put in place for this coming Sunday.

We encourage you to;

  • Communicate with your church community regarding the current social distancing 1 person, per every 4square meters
  • Review your directive to small groups and other smaller gatherings

Note it is important we continue to follow instructions from the Australian Government to ensure we, as a Baptist Churches community are doing all that we can to contain COVID-19.

18 March 2020 | Update 3 | Ministering to your Church Suggested Resources

As we continue to keep you updated on our on-going planning and response to the risks associated with the coronavirus, a number of pastors and ministry leaders have asked us about how to do "church" in this new environment.

Currently, as of 18 March 2020 the Australian Government has issued all non-essential gatherings of more than 100 people to be banned in an effort to contain COVID-19.

If you are a church whose attendance is under 100 and are still meeting, keep following the guidelines being advised by the Government including;

  1. Encouraging church members to stay at home if unwell
  2. keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between you and other people whenever possible
  3. minimising physical contact, especially with people at higher risk such as older people and people with existing health conditions

To ensure we, as the Church continue to minister to our communities during this time - spreading the hope and the love of Jesus - we have collated information regarding live streaming and other methods you may wish to utilise in continuing to minister to your church.

Live Streaming

Many churches across the world have begun live streaming their services. We encourage you to review the best practise for your congregation, this may include, but not be limited to watching the live stream as a small group, or family units. Please find information below on how you can live stream, including the appropriate licenses required.

Live Streaming How to Links

How to livestream | What you need to live stream - a news article released by Eternity News |

ChurchTechHigh | A free course covering the basics of live streaming

Licensing

CCLI have a separate cover for Live Streaming which BCWA does not currently offer. If you are planning to stream your full service (including music) you will need to ensure you have the appropriate cover, more information can be found Church Streaming Licence. If you are only streaming the message, you don't require this licence.

Other Connection Methods

We live in a hyper connected society, with landlines, mobile phones, email, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp etc. These tools can be used to help keep churches and small groups connected, often using the group features that the applications host.

See links to some common group features below;

WhatsApp Groups (256 people in a group who can share IM's, photos etc)

WhatsApp Group Calling (Limit of four people on call)

Facebook Messenger Groups

During this time there are those in our congregations who are less "connected" including the elderly, who are also the most vulnerable. It's important we continue to do what we can during this unprecedented time to keep the vulnerable connected, but safe. This may include, but not be limited to;

  • Opening areas of the church for prayer, ensuring individuals are spread out in the facilities - not congregated in groups
  • Assisting with deliveries and urgent supplies for those who are unable to access shopping facilities
  • Pastoral Care Phone Calls
  • Prayer groups calling in at certain times

Traci Smith, an Ordained Minister from Illinois, USA has written a blog: COVID-19: 100 Ideas for Ministers and Ministry Leaders She has collated together a list of 100 ideas of how the church can continue to function in this challenging time.

The Baptist Union of Victoria have released a helpful document on How to respond Pastorally to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It's important to remember children and youth ministries are also affected during this time, we encourage you to consider the children and youth in your church and how the hysteria is impacting them. Bible Society have amazing resources available online for these age brackets to keep them engaged and developing in their faith;

Isolation can be debilitating, we encourage you to utilise these ideas in your church ministries, providing support to those who you are called to shepherd at this time.

We hope that you find these resources to be of help.

18 march 2020 | Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 2

It's important to keep you updated on our on-going planning and response to the risks associated with the coronavirus, COVID-19, noting this is a rapidly evolving situation.

Since our correspondence on Friday, 13 March 2020 the situation has escalated. Our risk management response has been progressively updated and will continue to be updated over the coming days and weeks as required. Our response and ongoing commitment is to help create a safe and healthy environment for our church communities and ministries.

As a minimum we are following the recommendations of the Australian Government and the World Health Organisation while prayerfully seeking wisdom from the Lord concerning further actions. We have identified high risk ministries, events and activities and are continually monitoring our response.

Having assessed the risks involved, we have made the decision to Cancel the following events with no current plans or intentions to reschedule for 2020 given the current climate:

  • Vose Commencement & Conferral | March 26
  • Vose Book Sale | April 4
  • Baptist Pastoral Retreat | April 20 - 22
  • Baptist Camps - Winter |
  • Fresh Conference | June 19 - 20
  • Domestic Violence Seminar

Note - if you have purchased ticket/s to any of the above events, the refund process has commenced and may take 3 - 5 working days for the monies to return to your account.

We have also been advised by the organisers of the Baptist Camping Centre Reunion on March 21 has been cancelled.

Monitor and assess the following events on a daily basis, along with reviewing the current delivery method:

  • Safe Church Workshops | (please contact Marianne Walker for further information regarding your workshop)
  • Vose Classes and Teaching | As of  Monday 23 March, Vose will be temporarily suspending face-to-face classes and will move to online study via Zoom until Easter and will then review the situation.
  • SportsFest Launch | May (the format of delivery is being reviewed)
  • SportsFest | September 25 - 28
  • Baptist Assembly | October 24
  • Leavers | November 23 - 26

The three Camping Centres are also continuing to closely monitor guidance regarding the spread of the virus.  Our focus is to ensure we meet customer needs while doing our part to keep you and our communities safe.

  • Currently, we have enhanced the techniques used to clean our facilities and grounds after each booking.  In particular, we are paying special attention to internal customer touch points such as seats, door handles, mattresses, bathrooms and kitchen facilities and other hard surfaces.
  • We are also cleaning our facilities frequently with recommended sanitising products.
  • In addition, we are taking steps to ensure the welfare of our employees.  This includes instructing employees who feel ill to stay home and consult their healthcare providers.  We are also urging all employees to be vigilant about frequent hand washing.

If you have an existing booking, please contact the team on 08 6525 5135 to discuss it with the team.

As noted, this is a rapidly evolving situation, the executive team is united in our response and will be meeting today (Wednesday 18 March) to review and if required update our response. We are currently working on an additional email today with suggestions on how  your church may do "church" in the coming months.

Friday 13 March 2020 | Coronavirus (COVID-19) Church Information

In recent days, a number of pastors and ministry leaders have inquired about recommendations that the Baptist Churches Western Australia would make regarding suggested procedures for ministry in the light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Since our email on Thursday 5 March, COVID-19 has been declared an international pandemic, with the State Government Pandemic Plan being updated to set out arrangements for protecting the community and minimising potential impacts of the coronavirus, and recovery afterwards. The impact of the virus is changing daily and we strongly recommend monitoring the Government Health web site regularly to keep up to date with developments.

Our ongoing commitment is help create a safe and healthy environment for our church communities and ministries. The following suggestions may be helpful for you to consider as you develop processes relevant to the context of your church or ministry.

Communion - We would suggest that where you hold services that include Communion, it is best for the bread and juice to be served by a single person only rather than passed around on trays or in baskets; taking precautions to minimise multiple people touching the food or serving utensils.

Offering – Offering collection typically involves a receptacle being passed from one person to another. Churches may wish to consider collecting the offering where the reciptical is not passed around, i.e. as people arrive or leave the church, or by going to it during the service. This may be an opportunity to encourage your church family to move towards electronic forms of giving. i.e. EFT, BFS's Giveway. Additional consideration needs to be made when handling offering money.

Children & Youth Ministries - It is important that great care is taken with hygiene in these ministries. Please examine all aspects of your children and youth ministry programs to ensure good practice.  Put in place protocols for those who present with colds or coughs.  Require stringent handwashing with soap and water and/or use of hand sanitizer, especially if there is any food service or preparation involved in the ministry.  Wipe down toys and equipment with antiseptic wipes before and after sessions. Consider how to minimise touching shared surfaces or contact games. This may include small things like not using a common pen for parents to sign children into the program but allowing a leader to 'check-in' children instead.

Foodservice - Morning teas/suppers/dinners can be key times of fellowship in the life of your church. Once again we encourage careful processes regarding serving food. This may include replacing open packets of biscuits with individually wrapped biscuits, suspending communal dinners, not allowing food on open trays or plates and the utilisation of people serving food and drinks. In essence, it is not wise to allow opportunity for people to touch or breathe on food or utensils that will then be used by others.

Cleaning – Consider enhanced techniques for cleaning, paying special attention to areas of high traffic and physical contact, such as doors handles and railings.

Isolation & Quarantine – Recommendations from the Government are changing frequently, particularly in relation to countries with travel restrictions. For up-to-date information on isolation and quarantine, go to https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus

Public Gatherings - At this stage, the Government is not recommending limitations on public gatherings that would prevent congregations from meeting.

General Advice – As per the Health Department Guidelines we encourage you to refrain from handshakes and other contact like kissing on the cheek along with having hand sanitiser available in foyers and café areas of churches. Resources are available on the Health Department website with hand washing instructions that can be placed in toilets, bathrooms and kitchens.

Overall, we encourage people to exercise common sense and general good hygiene as they gather together.

We have designed a series of suggested questions that your church leadership teams and board are encouraged to consider along with a number of curated articles that we hope provide balanced comment and questions from respected sources that will provide help to your leadership teams.

Our hope is that this information should not alarm or heighten any distress regarding COVID-19, our desire is for you to be informed with suggestions that may help to protect and ensure the safety of all so we can continue to worship together.

We pray that the Lord would guide your church and ministry at this time and for His peace and protection over yourself, your family, church and loved ones. We also pray for those people already impacted by the virus, wisdom for those in government and health departments who are responding to it and that we would continue to be a loving witness to those in our community.

Thursday 5 March 2020 | Coronavirus (COVID-19) Important Update

Dear Pastors and Ministry leaders,

Following enquiries from a number of churches, please find information regarding the Baptist Churches Western Australia's response to COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation's International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has declared the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) a Public Health Emergency of  International Concern.

We, like yourself are committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for our church communities and ministries.

In accordance with national public health guidelines and current information about the coronavirus from the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, members of the public MUST self-isolate for 14 days if they have been in close contact with someone who has a proven case of coronavirus, or have travelled through or from any of these higher risk countries:

  • Mainland China
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • South Korea

As the response to this situation unfolds, for the latest advice, information and resources for your church or ministry, please go directly to www.health.gov.au or www.health.wa.gov.au.

Both sites have resources including printable posters in multiple languages that can be used to educate your community and to help ensure good hygiene practices are in place, not only for this virus but other common illnesses that can affect public gatherings.

You can also call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.

Please also join with us in prayer for those who have been affected in Australia and globally. That the Lord would bring His Peace at this time and would guide those who are working to resolve this Public Health Emergency.

The Advocate

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