Last week the registrars of Pīhopatanga (Māori Anglican Bishoprics) and Anglican Dioceses around Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia met to coordinate this Church’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
On 13 March the bishops agreed to communicate the following precautions, taken directly from Health Ministry advice, to be implemented immediately across their regional groupings of churches:
:: Ask churches to require that any church members who are sick with high temperature and cough or have any flu symptoms stay away from religious services
:: Advise all church members to frequently wash hands thoroughly with soap and to use good cough etiquette, especially around food
:: Request church members to use a non-tactile way of greeting one another at the passing of the peace in the Eucharist/Holy Communion service (this means maintaining a safe distance from others and not passing the peace with hand-shaking, hongi-sharing, cheek-kissing or hugging)
:: Remove the common cup from Eucharistic services and offer individual communion wafers or individual pre-cut portions of bread only
:: Ask Anglo-Catholic churches to remove holy water from stoups at doors*
In a statement on the churches’ response to Covid19 today, Bishop of Dunedin Rt Rev Dr Steven Benford – who was a medical specialist before becoming a priest – has affirmed the Health Ministry’s precautions need to be taken by all parishes, and reminded his flock to remain alert to developments as they work together to halt the spread of the virus.
“There may come a time when physically meeting together may not be possible.” he added to his advice, and called on Anglicans to look for other ways to support each other and help each other to grow in the life of faith without having to be together in person.
“Who in your faith community needs a daily phone call? He asked.
Who needs shopping done – possibly to be left at the front door?
And who would value your prayers and a chat?”
For those who may find themselves in isolation in the coming weeks, Bishop Steven also challenged them to look for how the social distancing restrictions may become an opportunity for personal spiritual intimacy with God.
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia will continue to closely follow Health Ministry advice on how to best protect our church communities – and especially our most vulnerable community members – from the spread of this disease.
General Information on preventative action on Covid19 transmission for public event planners is here
The Ministry of Health’s Covid19 update page is here
The Diocese of Dunedin’s Covid19 Update page with specific information for Anglican churches is here
*Churches in the Anglo-Catholic tradition offer a stoup (bowl of holy water) at church entrances where people may dip their fingers and press the holy water from their fingertips onto their forehead, chest and shoulders in a sign of the cross as a personal blessing. These will now be emptied.