Canon Paul Black Canberra

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COVID-19 News and Resources

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What to expect when worship resumes in Canberra’s Recovery Plan Stage 3

  • Because of cleaning and disinfectant requirements before and after each service we will only be able to offer 3 services a week in the St John’s Hall.

  • Sunday 9.30 am in conjunction with Youth Group fortnightly and kids@church the alternate fortnight.

  • Sunday 6 pm (one service per month will be 1662 Evensong).

  • Wednesday 10 am 1662 Prayer Book with sermon.

  • Because of physical distancing and space requirements only 62 people can be in the hall at one time.

  • Offering 3 services per week means that 180 people will be able to attend worship.

  • Initially we will only be able to offer Services of the Word (not Eucharistic).

  • There will be no community singing or congregational responses other than those leading worship.

  • When people arrive worshippers will wait in a line at least 1.5 metres apart if there is a queue to get in.


  • On entry, all worshippers will be asked if they have experienced any COVID-19 or flu like symptoms.

  • They will need to complete an attendee register and use hand sanitation. A seating plan will be established.

  • No prayer books and hymn books will be used. A printed sheet will be provided.


  • People will need to practice social distancing at a minimum of 1.5 metres at all times.

  • There will be no physical greetings or exchanges such us handshakes or hugs, including sharing of the Peace.

  • There will be no social gatherings after services.

  • Before and after services volunteers will be needed to clean and disinfect chairs, touch points and toilets.

  • All services will be recorded and placed on YouTube for those unable to attend.

Parish Council will be asked to approve a COVID-19 Policy and a Cleaning and Disinfectant Policy
at their next meeting on Wednesday 17 June.

Reporting back from Parish Council

Parish Council met on Wednesday May 20, using Zoom conferencing, with the following matters considered.

Offertory income remains at a high percentage of the budgeted amount but, as expected, parking revenue is running at about 20% of budget. With (i) JobKeeper payments, (ii) assistance from the Diocese in the form of not requiring payment of the monthly parish contributions until October, and (iii) significantly reducing our expenditure, our cash flow will sustain normal operations

Our mission payments for this year will be $3k to Wontulp-Bi-Buya College in Cairns, $5k to Newton Theological College in PNG, $5.5k to CMS for support of the Clapham family in Japan and $1.5k to BCA.

A submission will be made to the master planning process for the proposed UNSW campus adjacent to the Parish to ask that there be no planning impediments that might preclude future joint activities between the Parish and the University.

Subject to continued relief from the effects of the pandemic it was agreed that we should have an Advent Fair to celebrate the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and the coming of Christmas.

An application will be made to ACT Heritage to seek funding for a condition report for the stained-glass windows and their protective covers.

There was substantial discussion on when to resume services at the Church. It was determined that this is not the right time. The situation will be monitored when stage 3 of the government guidelines are introduced, in which more than 50 people can gather and when we will have been able to monitor the overall status of infections in the meantime.

When worship resumes it will need to be in the hall so that appropriate social distancing can be observed. There will also be fewer services on Sunday and we need to be mindful of the possibility of spreading the virus though community singing and the use of microphones.

A small committee was formed, with the Rector as chair, to develop plans for the resumption of services in the short and medium term, including the best mix of on-site and internet- based worship activities. Other members of the committee are Margaret Emil, Edward Jackson, Margaret Rodgers, Cecilia Symonds and Shawn Liew.

Our monthly working bees are resuming. They are held on the first Saturday of the month from 9.30 a.m. and will be a good opportunity for parishioners to meet up again.

Joan Crook has spent more than two decades volunteering for various important causes—including the Cancer Council Wig service, Canberra Regional Cancer Centre, the Canberra Hospital Kiosk, Floriade and The Canberra Show. She is also a much loved St John's parishioner.

At 77, she is in one of the highest risk categories for COVID-19. Her daughter Jacqui wants everyone who is complacent about Covid-19 to think of her mum, Joan. Read the article in Her Canberra  HERE...

Letter from the Presiding Member of Parish Council


In my previous letter I expressed concern that the income of the Parish was likely to be affected significantly by the closure of worship and our not being able to meet together as a St John’s community because of the COVID-19 virus.  While that has certainly been the case for car parking revenue, our regular offertories have been exceptional.


After some initial concern, the generosity of you, our parishioners, has been wonderful.  In the past few weeks offertory income has just about met what we would normally expect, even with our worship not happening, for which your colleagues on Parish Council, and I, offer our sincere thanks.


As you may know the diocese, including the parishes, has been deemed eligible to receive the JobKeeper payments.  That will be of enormous benefit which, when combined with the financial assistance provided by the diocese, means that we do not have to lose staff, and our full ministry team can remain in place.  We will also be able to maintain our annual $12,000 Parish mission giving.


Many have asked when we might have our Parish Annual General Meeting.  If all goes to plan, when the government moves to stage 3 of the recovery from COVID-19 we should be able to have meetings of up to 100 people, appropriately distanced from each other.  That number well exceeds our normal AGM attendance; we should easily be able to accommodate the AGM in the hall with suitable social distancing. 


We are hopeful, therefore, that we should be able to run the AGM in about July, at which time we can also have our annual and triennial elections; the latter include Synod representatives and the new Clergy Appointments Board.


Paul has very kindly delayed his long service leave so that we minimise disruption to the Parish during this uncertain period.  It is important also that he be there to nurture and guide our parish community as we re-establish, as much as possible, our Church and parish-based activities.


We have much to be thankful for.  While many in our Parish and the community more broadly have been affected by the social isolation and other impacts of the COVID-19 situation it seems we will come out of this time earlier than anticipated and with far less impact on our Parish than we feared. 


Hopefully, we will be back to a sense of normality before we know it.  Importantly, in the meantime the virtual services that Paul and the ministry team are running weekly, the kids@church, Youth Group and St John’s@6 activities being hosted by Michael electronically and the Zoom-based morning prayers are all serving to keep us together.


Yours in Christ


John Richards

17 May

No to participating in Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper or Eucharist by video conferencing

Bishop Mark has received enquiries about participating in Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist by remote means such as the use of video conferencing software.

He writes, “I have decided not to celebrate or receive the Lord’s Supper while congregations throughout the Diocese are unable to do so by gathering together in the normal way. While I acknowledge there may be circumstances under which I would reverse this decision (for example if I were taken ill or was asked to share the Lord’s Supper with someone who was themselves ill) there are three reasons why I am so minded at present:

  • within our Diocese there will be a diversity of views concerning the propriety or even the possibility of sharing the Eucharist when the celebrant and the congregation are not co-located physically. I do not think in our current circumstances we have the time or means to work through to a consensus on the matter. Rather than act in a way that might be a cause of scandal to some and recognising the particular role of a Diocesan Bishop in maintaining unity I have chosen to act in the spirit of Romans 14:13ff and refrain from eating and drinking in this manner

  • with current restrictions essentially confining us to our homes it would be difficult to ensure participation in the Eucharist by households without access to resources such as the internet. Such households tend to be disproportionately poor, elderly and rural. In 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 Paul chides the congregation for sharing the Lord’s Supper in a way that reinforces rather than transcends economic and social divisions; I am cautious about adopting a practice that may do the same in our day

  • finally, there is the general principle enunciated in 1 Corinthians 12:26 that when one part of the body of Christ suffers, all suffer together with it. Our inability to gather as usual and in particular to share in the Eucharist is a grief to me and to many; but in sharing that grief we express something precious about our identity in Christ.”



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