Churches will be allowed to conduct the Easter services they’re accustomed to next weekend, complete with musicians, worship teams and those in other ministry roles—but worshippers will still have to stay home and watch the services by live-streaming.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement this afternoon in his daily COVID-19 briefing, saying the government agreed today to allow churches and other faith groups to operate as though they are an essential-service workplace, over Easter.
The same social distancing rules will apply to staff and volunteers involved in the services, such as the minimum floorspace requirement of four square metres per person.
“The places where the broadcasts and the streaming is taking place from, will be considered as workplaces… That way [services] can be faithfully relayed to faith communities around the country.”
But Mr Morrison stressed that congregations are still not allowed to go to their services to gather and worship in person.
“Churches are not open. Places of worship are not open,” he said. “I want to be very clear about that.”
Mr Morrison said the government had received a lot of feedback from religious groups requesting special allowances over Easter to conduct their services according to tradition, as the current ban on church gatherings mean pastors are having to deliver their online messages solo.
“Particularly for Orthodox religions… when it comes up around Easter, there are additional cantors and… other religious ecclesiastical roles that are played in those services… the priests and the others formally involved in the conducting of the ceremonies,” Mr Morrison said.
He said the allowance for the Easter weekend would enable people of faith to worship and engage in services they are familiar with – from their homes.
“The places where the broadcasts and the streaming is taking place from, usually in a place of worship, they will be considered as workplaces,” Mr Morrison said.
“What does that mean? It means the same rules that apply to a workplace for those who are participating in presenting the service, conducting the service, will apply as they do in other places of work.
“That way [the services] can be faithfully relayed to the faith communities around the country.”
Some churches which already operate as places of employment, have been able to record and stream services with stripped-back teams already; the allowance for Easter weekend will now extend that privilege to all places of worship.
Watch video of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s briefing: from 07:20 to 08:48.