COVID-19 Update

Date: 19 November 2021

From Senior Ministers Rob and Christie Buckingham

From today 19 November 2021, there are no restrictions and caps on religious services at Bayside Church.  Registrations for church gatherings are still required as only those who are fully vaccinated (12+ and over) or hold a medical exemption are able to enter the building.

Bayside Church Reopening Strategy

We are on a journey out of the global pandemic towards a day where we will all gather in-person, vaccinated and not vaccinated people in a society where COVID-19 is endemic.

The pathway towards this end goal will be filled with challenges, including government regulations, significant outbreaks, and community angst about the timing and impact.

As Victoria opens, there will be a substantial spike in new infections at a level that Australia has not seen since the pandemic began. It appears the State Government will ease restrictions as it is able without crashing the healthcare sector. People who have chosen not to be vaccinated or who cannot be vaccinated will be at far greater risk of COVID-19.

Guiding Principles

Our unity in Christ (see Eph. 4.4-6) transcends our vaccination status, our opinion of government responses to the pandemic, and our stance on the Sars-CoV-2 virus. We are lovingly committed to one another while we maintain the best-known practice for living with COVID-19.

Bayside Church does not believe that restrictions on gathering require us to act in civil disobedience. Some people have appealed to Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than human beings.” Peter’s words address a ban on preaching the gospel ~ “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name” [Jesus]. No such prohibition is in place in Melbourne. Restrictions across society allow for the reopening of the community in the safest possible way to minimise sickness and death and protect the medical community. And so, we will be respectful of the law.

Policy

Bayside Church will be as safe a place as possible for people and their children to gather. The most vulnerable to COVID-19 must feel safe in the congregation. The implication of this stance, and as the law requires, is that (at least in the short term) those attending must demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated or have a medical certificate or letter of exemption from their medical practitioner. We anticipate that this will apply until we live in a fully open society with endemic COVID-19 (maybe up to six months).

Q&A

Do we legally have a right to ask to see vaccine certificates?

The Government requires Bayside Church, like many sectors, to sight proof of vaccination upon entry.

Are people with vaccination exemption allowed on site?

Yes. If a person has a medical exemption certified by an authorised medical practitioner, they have the same entry permission as the vaccinated.

Are people who are vaccine-hesitant, unvaccinated or unable to be vaccinated the modern-day leper?

No person is considered a modern-day leper. All people deserve to be treated with dignity, love and respect. In the process of learning to live with COVID-19, the ability to demonstrate that any person is not a risk to other vulnerable people is required for gatherings. The basis of this is to create safe environments for vulnerable people and to show loving respect to those who, for a time, will have requirements placed upon them for the safety of those who are most susceptible to this virus.

Does Bayside Church encourage people to be vaccinated?

Bayside Church encourages people to consult their medical professionals about the appropriateness of vaccination for themselves.

Is vaccination compulsory for staff members?

Vaccination is a requirement of the Government for entry to the Bayside facilities. If a staff member is hesitant about vaccination, they will be required to work from home.

How are we creating safe environments for the under 12’s who cannot be vaccinated?

Worldwide data shows kids are at low risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Therefore, all Bayside Kids programs will reopen according to government regulations, density limits and safeguarding procedures. The team is excited to provide fun games and engaging lessons for all the kids of Bayside Church. Registration will be required, and check-in for kids’ ministry will take place in the car park to accommodate children of vaccinated and unvaccinated families. For unvaccinated parents, this will be a drop and go. We request that families provide a drink bottle for each child. Bayside Kids will provide sealed snacks.

What do we do with home or public space settings (i.e. Connect Groups)? Can unvaccinated people be involved?

Gatherings in homes or outdoors will be in line with public policy. Connect Group leaders will use their discretion as to what this looks like for their group.

Having inclusive common language – what terms do we (or don’t we) use?

We choose not to use divisive statements like “anti-vax.” Instead, Bayside Church chooses to use language like “vaccine-hesitant”, or “people who are not yet vaccinated”, or “people who are unable to be vaccinated.”

Why are some churches delaying reopening?

Some churches have decided they won’t reopen until restrictions on unvaccinated people ease. We understand their desire not to exclude anyone from church gatherings. However, this restriction will be in place at least for the summer (about six months). We don’t think it’s fair to restrict all of God’s people from gathering, especially as we have been unable to meet for so long. We hope this decision is understood with grace and viewed as an opportunity to “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:4).

Why are some people not yet vaccinated?

  • Vaccine hesitant people are taking a wait and see approach. They are not opposed to vaccines per se but are uncertain about the COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Medical exemptions must be certified by an authorised medical practitioner if an individual has a medical contraindication to the vaccine or other medical reasons not to receive the vaccine.
  • Age category. Under 12s at this point are not able to get vaccinated.
  • Objectors on ideological grounds: Have a distrust of vaccine and Government interference on personal rights.
  • Objectors on theological grounds: End times concerns or theologically driven ethical concerns.
  • Combination of the above reasons.

In Response Bayside Church:

  • Affirms that our unity in Christ is far more significant than any position on vaccination.
  • Seeks to work compassionately with people who feel their liberties are being restricted and seeks to extend love and care for all.
  • Understands that SARS-CoV-2 and the resulting COVID-19 illness is genuine and that there is a legitimate medical response designed to minimise the impact on lives and society.
  • Affirms the individual’s right to be vaccinated or not be vaccinated and notes that the individual carries the consequences of their own decision.
  • Rejects that this is some form of a global conspiracy.
  • Rejects the idea that the vaccine is the mark of the Beast.
  • Affirms everyone’s right to a personal opinion.

How to Prepare for Reopening

As you can imagine, the check-in process will be time-consuming as vaccination status needs to be confirmed upon entry. Therefore, we ask everyone to be gracious and patient.

In the meantime, we suggest linking your vaccination certificate to the Services Victoria app. You can click here for more details on how to do this. For those who do not have a smart device, we recommend downloading your certificate and presenting a hard copy.

We sincerely thank you for your understanding as we open up and look forward to being together again.