ANGLICAN church services across the Central West will be suspended after this weekend, but parishioners will be able to stream services online.
The growing coronavirus pandemic has put new restrictions on non-essential gatherings, with a ban on more that 100 people inside at a time.
Anglican Diocese of Bathurst Bishop Mark Calder said all services in all churches would be impacted.
"We realise that none of our churches have more than 100 people at any one time. However, we also know that the age and frailty of many who do attend, means that there is a heightened risk to our members, should someone inadvertently attend carrying COVID-19," he said.
"So the loving, wise action to take, to reduce any risk of spreading this disease, and to protect each other, is to suspend our church services from next weekend."
Bishop Calder said there would be a number of stringent restrictions taken at Anglican church services this weekend. These include:
- There will be no Holy Communion and no refreshments after services.
- There will be no 'greeting of peace' or shaking hands and people will be offered hand sanitiser upon arrival and departure.
- The offering will be received on entry or exit - not by passing the plate or bags.
- There will be no prayer books, hymn books or Bibles handed out. There will be printed orders of service.
From the weekend of March 28-29 and into the foreseeable future, Bishop Calder said he would make services available on YouTube so people could watch at home on computer, iPad or smart TV.
"Some parishes may livestream a service," he said.
Bishop Calder said weddings in churches and chapels are included in the ban of more than 100 people.
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Funerals within chapels or church buildings can only include immediate family members, while graveside services will allow for more people.
Bishop Calder acknowledged that there was anxiety and fear in the community due to the spread of coronavirus and that it had placed enormous stress on everyone, particularly frail and vulnerable people.
"My prayer for us all is that in such challenging circumstances we will run to God as our refuge and feel safe; draw strength from God in our weakness, and find him to be a very constant and palpable help in our trouble," he said.
"And I pray that the result of all that, will be that we do not fear - though the whole world is changing around us day by day."
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