By Stephen Cauchi
19 November 2021
Anglican congregations throughout Victoria are rejoicing after capacity limits and mask requirements for vaccinated services were lifted, ahead of Christmas carols services.
However, capacity and density limits, and mask requirements, remain for services for those whose vaccination status is unstated, including those who are unvaccinated.
Oakleigh Anglican Church vicar Reverend Colleen Arnold-Moore said the change was “phenomenal”. She said there would be much rejoicing in larger churches, where density limits had severely restricted permitted attendance.
She said mask wearing would also have posed a severe hindrance to carols services.
“I don’t think we’ve been allowed to do this even earlier this year when we weren’t in lockdown,” she said.
“It’s fantastic we’ll be able to open up for our services.”
St James’ Old Cathedral vicar Reverend Matt Williams said his congregation was was really look forward to a hopefully normal Christmas.
“It’s already been a joyful thing just to be back together and you can see it on people’s faces and I think that Christmas will keep ramping that up,” he said.
Mr Williams said that the prospect of checking vaccination status of those coming to services or carols was “not pleasant”, but many others in the community had to do the same.
“Small business people … everybody wanting to welcome people is being put in a position where they have to do that,” he said.
Advice from the diocesan centre is that while masks do not need to be worn, they were recommended when the church is full. The centre also recommended good ventilation.
Services not requiring vaccination status remain capped at 50 people, both indoors and outdoors. Masks must be worn by everyone except one person leading, singing or preaching, and the four square metre rule remains.
Vaccination status applies to those aged over 12. Those aged under 12 are considered vaccinated.
Refreshments can be served before or after fully vaccinated events. For services not requiring vaccination status, refreshments can be served outdoors only, and tables and chairs are not allowed.
Christ Church Dingley minister the Reverend Tanya Cummings, said the changes were certainly made things easier. But she said she was looking forward to capacity limits lifting for services not requiring vaccination status.
Christ Church currently runs two services not requiring proof of vaccination, and at one point offered three.
She said plans for carols had not been finalised, but the idea was to offer one service for vaccinated and another not requiring proof of vaccination.
Ms Cummings said that some of the church’s older congregation had not returned to church as they were not ready to do so. Ms Arnold-Moore echoed this concern, saying there was “concern and hesitation” among the most vulnerable in terms of health, generally the older people.
St Oswald’s Glen Iris vicar Glenn Loughrey said the church was expecting 60 or 70 people to its carol services.
Mr Loughrey said that checking people’s vaccine status at a time of inclusion such as Christmas was awkward. But he said he was philosophical about the matter.
“If it wasn’t for a mandated event Jesus wouldn’t have been born in Bethlehem. So we’ll just have to live with the mandate,” Mr Loughrey said.