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Offering hospitality
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Alert Level 2 and Hospitality

Bishop Steven Benford —

Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 with the rest of Aotearoa-New Zealand at Alert Level 2. Bishop Steve has more to say about hospitality...


I'm very mindful that Parishes are starting to ask again about offering hospitality. This has been weighing heavily on me, especially around the current situation with the Delta variant and what appears to be a shift towards having to live with this in our communities. 

I've come to the conclusion that Parishes are able to offer hospitality as they were able to under previous Level 2 conditions as we may be in this Alert level for some time, using the processes we developed in the Diocese of Dunedin Hospitality Checklist (also attached below) and according to your plans that were signed off last year. 

Along with the Government, my main plea is for people to make sure they are fully vaccinated. This is the only way that we can fully protect ourselves and show our love to others around us. We can't mandate this, but we are asking everyone to arrange to do this now so that we can have more confidence to meet with each safely and protect everyone we love. I realise there will be some for whatever reason do not want to be vaccinated: please be kind to each other, respect different points of views but also encourage people to access the best sources of information on this to help make good choices. 

As someone who has accessed the vaccine and for the undecided, I am very willing to talk to anyone to give my understanding of theological and medical viewpoints to anyone who wants to speak to me. Please contact my EA Nicola Wong (phone 03 488026) to make a time to talk on the phone or in person. 

A reminder of what we have said so far around operating at Alert Level 2:

As indicated previously, in our Diocese we ask that only churches with a current Action Plan in place can open.

Although the number allowed is 100, when we have been in this setting previously we have asked people to assess their building capacity for the maximum number who can be accommodated at 1 metre distancing between individuals and small bubbles of people. Rather than for everyone to resubmit their Action Plans again, we are asking that you revert to what you had put in place for previous settings of Level 2, using the previously agreed maximum numbers.

Everything else agreed to in your plans can remain the same.

As already indicated, we are asking you to continue to make sure people are well spaced out in your setting and are feeling safe at worship. We have also updated our Office Poster for church office spaces where people work and the public may visit, as well as the Church Safety Poster (both attached below). 

Further reminders of what we need to do: 

You will need to ensure you have robust contract tracing measures in place, arrange for physical distancing, avoid any physical contact during The Peace or other places in the service and provide communion in one kind (bread) only. The Government has asked that we wear a face covering in churches. We are limited to 100 people or under in attendance, but you will need to follow the numbers you have assessed can be safely managed in your setting. There is some lee-way to exclude people directly involved in the service in the total numbers of people who can attend, but we don't recommend "stacking the numbers" with an array of servers and choir members: the general principle is to be more restrained. If you had ways that worked well in the past around this when numbers were limited, do this again... and tell us about it so we can pass any good ideas on. 

We are also advising that good hygiene practices put in place during Levels 2 and 1 previously need to continue - the Delta variant is highly infectious whether it be airborne or on surfaces. This means that if you are managing this by having more than one service, you need to ensure there is enough time between them to allow for ventilation and cleaning, and taking special care with any objects that may be used by more than one person e.g. a microphone. It also means implementing everything else that is highlighted in your Action Plan and in the Diocese of Dunedin Pandemic Response Framework for Alert Level 2. 

Contact Tracing

The Government has now mandated at at all Alert Levels people attending events must scan in using the COVID-19 tracer app or note their contacts details on a manual register. Have extra copies of the tracer app poster displayed so people are not congregating to sign in. If you can, have someone who can ensure people scan in or note down details of people attending or mark off a roll. This stops multiple handling of ball point pens. If this is too difficult to arrange, greeters/welcomers should remind people to use the hand sanitiser before and after they have used a pen, or bring and use their own.

You may want to check people into worship inside the church rather than a (cramped) foyer - have a look at your own space and think about where bottlenecks are and how you can maintain at least a 1 metre distance.

We do have some alternative forms (sign in sheet and individual sheets) that can be used for people to note their attendance. We also have a privacy disclaimer that you can print out and display. For more information on how to maintain privacy, see the Privacy Commission Website. 

Face Coverings

Encourage (and remind) everyone over the age of 12 to wear a face covering, and consider having some disposable ones handy if people have forgotten to bring one with them. Be kind to people who may have difficulty with this. 

Although currently not mandatory, we are strongly advising that this takes place. 

[If it does become mandatory in the future to ear face coverings and someone is not wearing one, greeters-welcomers could say "I notice you are not wearing a face covering, are there medical reasons for this?" If the answer is "yes", check that they feel safe worshipping today and ask them to make sure they have extra space around them. If the answer is "no", offer them a disposable face covering. If they refuse, ask the person politely to come back another day when they are able to wear a face covering/mask. If there is a problem, ask one of your Wardens for assistance.]

Spacing Suggestions

Put pew sheets (if you have them) on the pews to indicate where people can sit to encourage social distancing according to the plan you are following. This also stops greeters from physically handing things to people. If "bubbles" want to sit together, they must have some space around them. 

Talk to your greeters-welcomers and ask them to remind people to look at the Diocese of Dunedin Church Safety Poster (revised 22 September 2020) and to look for the service sheet on the pews indicating where they can sit. (A revised copy of the poster is also attached below - you can enlarge it to A3 size).

How to Properly Wear a Mask | World of 2D Animation IMRAN KHAN

Communion - the Eucharist 

Remember that we will be having communion in one kind (bread) only, and ensure you can do this safely in your settings (physical distancing, sanitising). Advise people to remove their face covering only for receiving the bread, and replace it afterwards. Have sanitiser available so people can clean their hands before and after touching their face covering (always a good idea to advise people to bring some with them as well). 

You will need to think carefully about how people move around: for smaller groups, you may decide to take the Bread to them (but only if you can do this while maintaining physical distance). You may decide to put markers to indicate a 1-2 metre distance and not to have people gather by an altar rail i.e. ask people to come forward, maintaining a 1-2 metre gap and distributing the Bread in an area at the front of the church where people can return via side aisles. Whatever you arrange, it  needs to be in your Action Plan and clearly explained to your congregation. 


What about singing? The Diocese of Dunedin Pandemic Response Framework has advice on this in the Liturgical Practices and Hospitality section (pg. 17 onwards)  as follows: 

In the absence of specific Government advice you may like to consider not having congregational singing but listen to recorded singing or have one or two cantors singing with appropriate physical distancing i.e. at least 1 metre of clear space around each singer. It’s fine to hum along with your face covering on.

Current evidence has shown that there is a risk for any activity such as singing, shouting, talking loudly where airborne droplets can travel significant distances. For those in the pews, keep your face covering on at all times.  

If you do decide to allow choir or community singing, you must clearly indicate that you are doing this in your service publicity and before the service begins, so that anyone who is not comfortable with this can take precautions e.g. continue to wear a face covering, ensure they have extra distancing, or choose to attend a spoken service or an on-line opportunity. You may also choose to increase physical distancing in your setting to reduce the risk of any airborne transmission.

In Level 2 any choirs who are practicing or performing must be included in faith community Action Plans. These will ensure that Choirs can demonstrate how they will maintain physical distancing of at least a 2 metre between the singers, music group and congregation.


Please think deeply about hospitality: you will know your individual settings better than I do and please note that I have a responsibility to the community for how the church acts. If a majority of your congregation cannot (or will not) b vaccinated, please think of how safe or sensible this is to offer hospitality. If you do go ahead, use the processes we developed in the Diocese of Dunedin Hospitality Checklist (also attached below) and according to your plans that were signed off last year.

Still... this is a lot to take in...

The Diocesan team are continuing to update information on the website, and you can access this by following this link

If you realise that your Action Plans still need some tweaking and have not done this to date, please contact the Diocesan Office now via Andrew Metcalfe or Nicola Wong so that we can ensure you have everything in place. A reminder: I'm asking that all plans are updated and signed off before you reopen. 

All of us in Aotearoa-New Zealand are taking this extra care to ensure we keep ourselves and our communities safe and to reduce the risk of community transmission. Let us continue forward in love and faith (not fear!) and remind ourselves how much we are loved by God. 

+ Steven

Bishop Steven Benford - official portrait photograph, 2019 — Image by: Kelk Photography

Link to Government Advice for Churches at Alert Level 2

The Government advice  (22 September 2021) for places of worship is as follows:

At Alert Level 2, places of worship can host services and ceremonies to a maximum of 100 people in any indoor or outdoor defined space. The gathering limits do not include staff — for example, clergy.

Advice for places of worship

  • All places of worship must have ways for attendees to record their visit. This can be done by asking everyone to scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app, or by recording their contact details manually.
  • Offer online services so people who cannot attend in person can participate.
  • Some religious rituals or practices need close contact — for example, a christening. Try to keep the time spent in close contact to a minimum.
  • Remove communal resources such as prayer mats or prayer books.
  • Encourage attendees to wear a face covering.
  • Clean and sanitise musical instruments and other shared surfaces thoroughly before and after use.
  • Singing, for example church choirs and other types of performance can go ahead. Performers do not need to wear a face covering.
  • You can serve food and drink and host events or functions such as catered morning tea — as long as you keep to the gathering limits.
  • Encourage contactless donations instead of a cash collection box.

Funerals, tangihanga and last rites at Alert Level 2

Weddings and civil unions at Alert Level 2

If you are going to a place of worship

  • We strongly encourage you to wear a face covering when visiting a place of worship.

  • You can mix with friends and whānau, but please be considerate of others and leave enough space for people to keep their distance if they want to.
  • Do not attend a service or prayer if you are unwell.
  • Scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app or give your details to the place of worship to support contact tracing.
  • Take home any personal items you bring in with you — for example, a prayer mat or prayer beads (or, in our settings, a prayer book)

Celebrations and festivals

At Alert Level 2, you can get together with up to 100 people for a faith-based celebration or festival. The number of people who can attend a gathering or celebration does not include anyone leading or working at the gathering.

If you are organising a faith-based celebration, you need to do the following:

  • Make sure you do not exceed the gathering limits. You can offer a livestream option so more people can attend from home.
  • Keep a record of everyone who attends. You can do this by creating a NZ COVID Tracer app QR code for your venue or location and asking your guests to scan in, or by recording their contact details manually. You do not need to keep contact tracing records if you are hosting a private gathering at your home and everyone knows each other.
  • Make sure the venue is big enough for people to spread out comfortably if they want to.
  • Provide seated table service if you are serving food or drinks. Try to seat extended household bubbles together at one table and place the tables 2 metres apart to help with physical distancing.

Travelling to a faith-based gathering at Alert Level 2

At Alert Level 2, you can travel to other regions that are at Alert Level 1 or 2 to attend a faith-based gathering — such as services, ceremonies and festivals. If the gathering is in an Alert Level 2 region, the gathering limits apply.

If you are travelling to an Alert Level 1 region to attend a faith based gathering, make sure you do it in a safe way. This includes:

  • keeping a record of who you have been in contact with, and what transport services you used
  • wearing a face covering on public transport services and flights
  • keeping a 2 metre distance from people you do not know
  • regularly washing or sanitising your hands.