Church Council decision regarding vaccination and attendance at services
17 December 2021
When St Michael’s made the decision to require proof of vaccination status for attendance at worship, we did so because we believed that while people have a choice about vaccination, the church has a duty to protect vulnerable members of our community.
We believe that getting vaccinated is how we love God and love our neighbours and ourselves during a global pandemic. And so we encourage anyone who has not been vaccinated to do so, and encourage everyone who is eligible for a booster to get one as soon as possible. Vaccinations save lives and getting vaccinated is undoubtedly the best way we have of protecting ourselves and those we love, including people in our church community, from serious illness and death.
We also believe that worship is fundamental to Christian life and that within Christian communities there is a conviction that worship is open to all. In response to this, we have offered weekly online worship and pastoral care to all people throughout the lockdowns and the reopening that has taken place over the last month.
This week the Victorian government decided to allow unvaccinated people to attend religious ceremonies. In line with this, the Council decided that attendance at St Michael’s services will no longer be dependent on proof of vaccination or exemption. This was not an easy decision. We recognise that while it will allow people who have chosen not to be vaccinated to come to church, it may cause anxiety for people who would otherwise not attend venues that permit unvaccinated people.
In order to mitigate this concern as much as possible, properly fitted masks must again be worn by everyone for the full duration of the service (unless a person has a medical exemption). Doors to the outside will remain open during the service. We encourage people to maintain social distance and use hand sanitiser. QR code check in (or manual registration of name and phone number) remains a government requirement.
Proof of vaccination or exemption will be required to enter the hall for morning tea where mask use is not feasible. This is in line with government requirements for attendance at restaurants.
This is a very challenging time as Australian jurisdictions are proceeding to relax restrictions when much of the world is reintroducing them because of the highly infectious omicron variant. The Council will regularly review our decisions as new information becomes available.
If you have any questions about the processes put in place, please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The minister or a member of Council will contact you.
We seek to be guided by the Spirit of compassion, and ask of our community a commitment to compassion for one another.
Sharing the Voices of our Community on St Michael’s Day
Read/Download “Lament, Healing and Hope” Booklet here
This St Michael’s Day, in celebration and recognition of the challenges we face, we present “Lament, Healing and Hope” a booklet which gives us voices from our community as we journey on together (even while we are apart).
Mindfulness Meditation Sessions
To help you during this time, St Michael’s has prepared two free Mindfulness Meditation Sessions with Karen Ellis.
Find them here
A Just Recovery – Post-COVID-19
The Uniting Church in Australia has outlined a set of principles and key actions that will guide the way to a better future as Australia recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
To read or download the document in full click this link: UCA Vision Statement post-COVID-19
Resources for Mentally and Emotionally Challenging Times
As we slowly recover from our time in lockdown some people are doing well in themselves, others are struggling, and others still feel like they are on an emotional and mental roller coaster. It is hard to make decisions, be productive and connect with others when our nervous systems are anxious and struggling in regular times – it is especially hard during times of crisis. The following resources may provide some pastoral (not counselling) support for folk during this difficult time – for themselves, or as they recognise the signs in others.
- Great resources available online and through Apps that support mental and emotional well-being:
- Head to Health – Australian Government Department of Health COVID-19 support.
- MindSpot – Online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression – recognised by the Australian Government.
- Beyond Blue – with extra support during COVID-19 – see the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service; see also The Check-in App (while designed for young people, it has some great suggestions for anyone concerned for a friend or family member of any age), and resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
- Smiling Mind – including Thrive Inside which offers specific support as we spend extended times at home; and Digital Care Packs to support kids through COVID-19 and beyond. Also available as an App.
- Headspace Australia – with specific links for COVID-19 support.
- Black Dog Institute – general mental health resources, with some targeted support for COVID-19, including Working from home: a checklist to support your mental health.
- Bite Back – Black Dog Resources for Youth.
- Emerging Minds – including a toolkit for supporting children’s mental health during a pandemic (with skills applicable for all!)
- Headspace – also available as an App.
- Calm – also available as an App.
- Taking some time to be still and quiet to slow down and listen to nature can work wonders. The following are some ideas that can be practiced at home, in front-yards, in back-yards, in other places (given lifting of restrictions). Some benefit can apparently be gained even by watching nature videos with these practices in mind if you can’t go out.
- Dadirri – an Aboriginal practice of inner deep listening. The linked explanations come from the Northern Territory. Where you have connections with local Aboriginal people and you can connect with them in these times, take the opportunity to ask them about their practice of inner deep listening.
- Forest bathing or forest therapy – a spiritual practice that originated in Japan. See how it looks in Melbourne/Victoria.
- Home gardeners world-wide are finding their garden helps keep them more balanced generally, but especially during COVID-19 (I know being in mine helps me very much!)
- Ambiguous loss, disenfranchised grief and COVID-19. Many are feeling grief and loss that is unclear, full of uncertainty, not knowing what is coming next – at home, work, church, society, etc. For some, this is linked to anxiety because they do not know exactly why they are feeling loss, or whether it is ok to feel that way.Back in the 1970’s, Dr Pauline Boss developed the term, “ambiguous loss” in her work with people who had family members away at war. She then developed this work further with those who had a family member experiencing dementia. Dr Boss’ work on ambiguous loss has application to trauma and the time we now face due to COVID-19. Researchers in Australia are also studying what has been termed, “disenfranchised grief”.Professor Jane Fisher and Senior Research Fellow Maggie Kirkman from Monash University are seeking to understand COVID-19’s impact on Australian adults, including the effects of disenfranchised grief.Some useful resources around ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief are:
- COVID-19 and its Ambiguous Losses: How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety – a YouTube clip where Dr Boss speaks about COVID-19 and ambiguous loss (a great listen with some PPT slides).
- COVID-19 and Ambiguous Loss – a written explanation about ambiguous loss generally and how this relates to living in a pandemic.
- Grieving life and loss – from the American Psychological Association. This is more aimed at therapists but there are some important points in this too.
- Coronavirus: Recognising disenfranchised grief amid COVID-19 – from Monash University.
- Disenfranchised Grief – from The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement.
More information on COVID-19
For the latest advice and information please go to health.gov.au
For health enquiries please utilise the Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus Information Line 1800 020 080 or the healthdirect hotline 1800 022 222