"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.

2 June | COVID-19 Update 17 | Phase 3 Additional Easing of Restrictions

We are writing today to provide an update on the additional easing of restrictions as Phase 3 of the WA Roadmap commences on Saturday 6 June, including important information regarding the serving of food and drinks in churches.

PHASE 3 OF WA ROADMAP - EASING OF RESTRICTIONS

A Road Map to reopening has been published by the WA State Government. (See attached) This outlines the circumstances in which affected places can re-open, including churches.  The major components include social distancing and space; hygiene; and gathering numbers.  Each of these elements has an impact upon how churches be both safe workplaces (for employees and volunteers); and places of ministry and worship.

With the implementation of Phase 3 on 6 June;

  • The 4 square metre rule will be revised to 2 square metres per person for all WA venues.
  • Maintain 1.5 metre separation between people who are not from the same household
  • Physical distancing, good hygiene and the 2 square metre rule will apply to all activities permitted in Phase 3.
  • Public gatherings: non-work indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people per single undivided space, up to 300 people in total per venue over multiple spaces (100/300 rule)
  • weddings and funerals up to 100 people

In the roadmap – Churches can reopen from 18 May 2020 however this is conditional upon a COVID-19 Safety Plan being completed and implemented. This plan includes the following;

  • Churches (as places of worship) are an affected place that was previously closed, and therefore must complete a plan and display the certificate.
  • The plan must be completed (self-completed) PRIOR to reopening.
  • Maintain a strict limit of a minimum of 2m2 per person
  • Ensure the 100/300 rule is followed (excluding staff, and in the case of churches, the officiants/leaders necessary to run the ministry)
  • Maintain hygiene and frequent cleaning
  • Maintain attendance records for patrons for purposes of contact tracing

If your church completed a phase 2 COVID Safety Plan, to increase your capacity under Phase 3 restrictions it is suggested by the Government to review the new guidelines and update your COVID Safety Plan accordingly, including increasing your venue's capacity which can be reflected on your COVID Safety Plan Certificate.

Food & Drinks

Our advice from the State COVID19 Contact Centre (2 June) is that churches can provide refreshments in the current phase and that churches will need to comply with the requirements on Food businesses and licensed premises.

As of 6 June, with Phase 3 in place this means churches must have;

  • Completed a COVID Safety Plan prior to reopening. This should be completed by the person responsible for the premise.
  • Display a COVID Safety Plan certificate.
  • Maintain a strict minimum of 2 square metres per person.
  • Ensure a maximum of 100 dine-in patrons per undivided space or 300 patrons per venue (excluding staff).
  • Maintain hygiene and frequent cleaning.
  • Ensure staff/volunteers have completed the AHA Hospitality & Tourism COVID-19 Hygiene Course.
  • Maintain attendance records of patrons for contact tracing.
  • Carefully manage waiting areas to ensure physical distancing.
  • Patrons must be seated while eating or drinking.
  • Thought needs to be given how any food or drink is served, how people wait or line up, and where they go to consume food. Keep in mind all hospitality venues require people to remain seated to ensure social distancing.
  • Avoid people touching food – i.e., No communal trays, biscuit packets or plates that people pick from, or other food items. Use gloves when serving or handing out food or other elements.

Helpful and Important Links:

A more detailed form of this communication is available in the attached COVID Bulletin Issue 6.

It is important to understand, that churches being open is conditional upon having a COVID Safety Plan in place, and ready for inspection. (See update 16 from BCWA, released Thursday 14 May)

14 May | COVID-19 Update 15 | COVID-19 Resource Pack, Safe Church and SportsFest

Further to our email on Monday, we are writing today with three important updates, with details contained in the attachments:

  • COVID-19 Safety Plan Resource Pack
  • Safe Church Online Training Information
  • SportsFest 2.0

COVID-19 SAFETY PLAN RESOURCE PACK

The BCWA team have compiled a Resource Pack to assist churches plan for re-opening.  We had intended to distribute this information alongside the COVID-19 Safety Plan Templates issued by the state government, however these are not yet available.  Due to the number of queries, we have decided to distribute this information now, anticipating that it will align with State requirements.  If there are any major changes, we will advise next week, however this should provide you with references to make informed decisions about ministries.

The Resource Pack provides links to sound information and recommendations for a range of topics; as well as includes discussion points for church leadership teams to consider.  The attached COVID-19 Bulletin also has further information regarding the easing of restrictions.  The COVID-19 Resource Pack is attached, and can also be downloaded here.

SAFE CHURCH ONLINE TRAINING INFORMATION

BCWA have produced a series of videos to assist churches in meeting the Safe Church Training requirements for ministry leaders.  Training will be available online for 2020 and includes 1.5 hours of videos + participation in a BCWA facilitated Zoom workshop (2 hours).  The BCWA facilitated Zoom workshop will be scenario based, driven by the participants and hosted by a member of the Safe Church Team.  Note : that the dates for the BCWA Zoom workshops will be published on 21 May 2020.

Details are attached.  If your church has booked a workshop in 2020, a member of the Safe Church Team will be in contact to make arrangements for your workshop.

A video specifically addressing online safety and Safe Church has been produced and is available for general distribution to all leaders.  This 10 minute video can be accessed here and is also referenced at the conclusion of Safe Church Online Training.  Please note that this video is a supplement to the training and is not, on its own, enough to fulfil Safe Church training requirements.

SPORTSFEST 2.0

With ongoing uncertainty around restrictions, and the risks involved in large gatherings and sports, there will be changes to SPORTSFEST for 2020....  we understand that some may be disappointed at this decision - however there is still a lot to look forward to.

Whilst the format may change, the essence will remain.  Sportsfest 2.0 will be an opportunity to build upon the connections within your youth and young adult ministries with some competitive fun over several weeks, as well as weekly devotional messages and a Saturday Night Live finale.

Sportsfest 2.0 will launch on 25 May 2020 and further information will be in an email from Jess Ford - so watch out for it in the next day or so - and don't forget to ask your Youth Pastor and/or Coordinator about it...

May you know God's richest blessings as you navigate and guide your ministries and declare the name of Jesus.

11 May | COVID-19 Update 14 | Easing of Restrictions - WA Roadmap

We are writing today to provide updates and information on:

  • Resources specifically for ministry with COVID-19 ongoing restrictions, and the re-opening of churches;
  • Safe Church resources specific to online ministries; and
  • Arrangements for Safe Church Training.

EASING OF RESTRICTIONS AND COVID-19 Resources for Reopening

A Road Map to reopening has been published by the WA State Government.  This outlines the circumstances in which affected places can re-open, including churches.  The major components include social distancing and space; hygiene; and gathering numbers.  Each of these elements has an impact upon how churches be both safe workplaces (for employees and volunteers); and places of ministry and worship.

In the roadmap – churches can reopen from 18 May 2020 however:

  • This is conditional upon a COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • Gatherings are restricted to 20 persons, plus a maximum of 10 involved in the delivery of production to a service – and the 4m2 rule applies

The state government anticipates publishing the COVID-19 Safety Plan in the coming days, and BCWA is preparing a COVID-19 Resource pack for churches.  This will build upon the sound information provided by various government authorities such as Safe Work, and the Health Dept, as well as some specific church related checklists and suggestions developed by the team at BCWA.

Helpful and Important Links:

It is important to understand, that churches being open is conditional upon having a COVID Safety Plan in place, and ready for inspection.  We are yet to see details of the plan, or the compliance elements but believe the above will be helpful.

BCWA will publish a template and things to consider this week.

Safe Church Resources Specific to Online Ministries

With the rise in use of electronic communications to facilitate ministry online, it is important that churches review and maintain the Safe Church policies and procedures.  Safe Church principles such as duty of care, screening of leaders, WWC, risk management apply as equally to online environments as they do to 'in person' ministry.  Indeed, the online environment is highly vulnerable and requires careful risk management and thought.  To assist churches navigate the practical implications, we are providing the following:

  • A video focussed on Safe Church Online which can be easily and readily accessible for your ministry leaders
  • A revised Electronic Communications Guide
  • Hosting three Zoom sessions with the Safe Church Team for discussions about the scenarios you are facing.  This will be participant driven – so come with your questions

The times, dates and details to access these resources will be published later this week.

Safe Church Training

To support ministry throughout 2020, Safe Church Training will be delivered online.  There will be two components:  a series of videos with the main presentation content; and participation in a facilitated Zoom workshop (2 hours).  Due to licensing requirements, we do need to continue to pay a fee per seat for the training and resources, and therefore a registration and payment system is required to determine numbers.  The instructions including delivery options for churches, registrations, and workshop will be sent out this week.  Please forward this to the persons responsible for Safe Church in your church to enable ongoing training.

Thank you for your diligence and commitment to seeing the gospel flourish in changing times.

28 April | COVID-19 Update 13 | Impact of COVID-19 on Baptist Churches Western Australia & Easing of Restrictions

We are writing today to provide you with some important updates:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on Baptist Churches Western Australia
  • Announcements that were made over the weekend in regard to the easing of WA restrictions and JobKeeper

The impact of COVID-19 on Baptist Churches Western Australia

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial challenges that organisations are facing, the Baptist Churches Western Australia Council and the Executive Team are in the process of making changes to how ministry areas will be staffed and budgeted for in the coming months.

To keep you as our Baptist family of churches informed as to the impact on Baptist Churches Western Australia, the following has occurred;

  • Group bookings are unavailable for the three Camping Centres while social distancing restrictions are in place. This means no income is derived from this department until group bookings recommence. (Bookings are being taken now for future camps post social distancing restrictions being lifted)
  • Operating Expenses have been reviewed and stripped back in all departments.
  • BCWA Staff at the Baptist Ministry Centre and Vose Seminary will have their hours reduced, with full-time staff moving to a four day week.
  • The National Redress Scheme continues to move forward, with Baptist Churches Western Australia needing to maintain reserves for payments circa $1.1million.
  • Baptist Churches Western Australia, incorporating the Baptist Ministry Centre, Vose Seminary and the Baptist Camping Centres staff, where eligible have been placed onto the JobKeeper payment to supplement wages.
  • Baptist Churches Western Australia have applied for the Cash Flow Boost from the Australian Taxation Office.

Due to staff changes as above, as of Monday 4 May, the Baptist Ministry Centre will be closed on Fridays until further notice. Our sincere hope is that once income levels climb, we will be able to review this and increase the hours that we are able to provide service to our churches, pastors and their ministry leaders.

We are also in the process of creating a short survey, that will request information from member churches as to their ability to continue giving to the BCWA Combined Ministries Budget. This essential giving, provides finances to Baptist Churches Western Australia that helps us to be able to resource churches and their ministries, especially at times like this. Thank you to those church who have been able to continue your giving as this is greatly appreciated.

Our heartbeat is to be an empowering movement helping pastors, ministries, churches and their communities say yes to Jesus. Our prayers are with you and our desire is to continue to serve you as best we can during this challenging season.

Announcements regarding the easing of restrictions and JobKeeper

Over the weekend, Premier Mark McGowan announced some 'cautious easing of restrictions'.  These changes relate to the number of people who can be in a gathering however churches, as places of worship, remain closed.  People can decide to gather socially, in either public places or homes, provided that the total number gathered does not exceed 10, and the 4m2 space requirement per person applies.

The Federal Treasurer also announced some changes to JobKeeper, including an extension to the enrolment date for the current JobKeeper period.

Details about these changes are in the linked bulletin, and a copy of the new Closure Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions No 2 are attached.

8 April | Update 11 | New Directives Published - You can stream with up to 10 persons present

Praise God.  At 10pm last night, 7 April, declarations revoking existing directives were published, and earlier today, new Directives were published – in effect immediately (from 6pm 7 April 2020, but not published until today).

The new orders (Closure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions are in effect until 7 May 2020, and integrate the previous multiple directions, providing further clarity on prohibited gatherings and activities, as well as closures of certain businesses – including places of worship.  The result is that churches can stream from their places of worship, provided that no more than 10 persons are present.   Good news indeed.

Section 11 deals with a prohibited gathering, and excludes:

              "s.  at a place of worship for the purposes of live streaming, or recording for later broadcast or publication on television, radio, the internet or social media, of religious activities at that place of worship, provided that no more than 10 persons are present and there is at least 4 square metres for each person at the gathering".

The following Note: is made:

"under these directions places of worship remain closed to the public other than for the purposes of a wedding or funeral.  A place of worship must otherwise remain closed to the public while it is being used for the purposes of living streaming or recording religious activities.

Example: a place of worship is being used for the purposes of live streaming a religious service.  The person who leads or presides at the service, such as an imam, priest or rabbi, and those who assist that person (including those who would ordinarily read from scripture or some other sacred text to a congregation or other group gathered in participate in the service) can be present.  In addition, persons may be present for the purpose of live streaming or recording the service.  However, no more than 10 persons can be present and there must be at least 4 square metres of space for each person at the gathering and, because the place of worship remains closed to the public, no part of the congregation or other group who would ordinarily gather to participate in the service can be present (except for any person assisting the person who leads or presides at the service.)

Whilst we have attached a copy of the current directives, we encourage you to find all Directions at the State Government website:

https://www.wa.gov.au/government/document-collections/covid-19-coronavirus-state-of-emergency-declarations

Current directive under Closure and Restriction (Limit the Spread) Directions heading.

May the rejoicing be heard on all mountaintops!!!  And the Good News that is Jesus Christ be proclaimed this Easter. What a resurrection Sunday it will be!

7 April 2020 | Update 10 | Important Information on Streaming

In these days, information releases exceptionally fast, and there is often a day or two before things are made clear.  We are emailing to inform you of some important information.

Whilst the PM made his announcement on 3rd April 2020, regarding places of worship being considered 'workplace' for the streaming of services – this is not the law in Western Australia.

The Directives sent and referenced in our previous emails are still current, and no further adjustment has been to reflect the PM's statement.  An updated Bulletin is attached.

We are aware that police from the COVID-19 unit have visited a church in Perth and discussed this with them, reinforcing that the WA law is:

  • Places of worship are closed.  This means your church building.
  • Prohibited gatherings are in place, with a limit of 2 persons in a public place; or 4m2 for office buildings, or places of work (or members in the same household)
  • Preventative Restriction of Activities prohibit any person from undertaking, engaging in, organising or attending an affected activity.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that until we are advised otherwise, that no-one other than workers be engaged in the streaming of services from church offices.

We know that you will be disappointed, and we apologise that the information is taking some time to resolve.  We have made every effort to clarify before publication, and advice received on Monday was conflicting as it referred us to the PM's statement.

We are continuing to monitor the situation, and pro-actively seek a response from the relevant authorities, however at this point, ask that you fully respect the laws of Western Australia, and the health for all concerned.

6 April 2020 | Update 9 | updated Information for Churches & Pastors

Subsequent to our zoom call last Thursday, a number of significant announcements have been made regarding restrictions and funding through COVID-19.  The attached document contains all the appropriate on our understanding to date, including links and information for following announcements:

  • PM's announcement stating that 'places of worship' will be considered 'workplaces' for the purposes of streaming services.  Please see the detailed comments in the attached, and note that the PM's comments as 'churches as a workplace' apply to the production and streaming of services only, and is not extended to any other ministries of services of the church.  We have yet to see any adjustments to State Directives based upon this statement.
  • The Treasurer's announcement that Charities will be eligible for JobKeeper based upon a 15% reduction of income, and not 30% as previously published.  Please note that the JobKeeper package will be before Parliament on Wednesday 8th April 2020.
  • The BCWA offices now have a skeleton staff on premises, and that if you need to visit the BCWA offices for any reason, please call or email to make an appointment.

We will provide an as soon as details are available regarding any further developments.

3 April 2020 | Update 8 | Information for churches

Thank you to those who participated in the zoom discussions yesterday.  Information was being prepared to send out this afternoon, however an announcement from the Prime Minister earlier today has clarified some of the information in regards to 'places of worship' as a workplace.

The statement (excerpt below) directly relates to 'religious services' and confirms that the church would be considered a 'workplace' for the purposes of streaming services.  This is indeed good news!  We will continue to seek directions, and provide a detailed update of the implications of the current restrictions to all as soon as possible.

Religious Services

Churches and other places of worship, will be considered places of work so that services can be live streamed to the community. This will ensure that religious services, including Easter services, remain accessible to congregations. National Cabinet agreed that providing access to services is important for a sense of continuity and social connection.

Services may be conducted and live streamed providing only essential staff are present, the venue/facility remains closed to the public, and social distancing principles are adhered to.

Any church wishing to conduct religious services, including Easter services, must use the minimum number of participants required to deliver and live stream the service, which may include a priest, attendants, organist, videographer and sound recordist.  

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures-030420

Our hope is to have an updated information sheet out to churches early next with the implications and practical outworking's of this new clarification for churches.

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 4:7 "And 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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