'We don’t want a church divided because of Covid'

Churches around Dunedin will hold separate services for those without a My Vaccine Pass, but worship leaders are trying to keep it from creating a split in the community.

Recently released government guidelines say a place of worship can switch between activities operating with or without vaccine passes.

Anglican Diocese of Dunedin Bishop Steven Benford said it had asked all its faith communities to decide if they would be offering alternative services.

Mixed services, open to those with or without a vaccine pass, would be similar to a normal service but would follow government guidelines such as number restrictions.

Vaccine-pass-only services would have fewer restrictions, but people were still advised to take care, such as wearing a face mask, he said.

The diocese was seeking to care for and protect the whole community, he said, but principles of safety and the public good needed to be considered.

All church staff were expected to be vaccinated, he said.

All Saints’ Anglican Church North Dunedin vicar the Rev Canon Michael Wallace said an alternative evening service would be offered at the church on Sundays.

People had strong opinions "on both sides of the spectrum" and finding a suitable solution that pleased everyone and worked logistically was difficult.

"It’s not as straightforward as some people think it is."

Dunedin City Baptist Church team leader Bruce Elder said it was important the church felt welcoming to everyone, but also that the vulnerable felt safe.

Having some services requiring the vaccine pass and some without was a way to cater to all who wanted to worship.

There was a wide range of views within the church, but the most important thing was finding ways to continue as one community.

"We don’t want a church divided because of Covid."

Fr Fredy Prementilla, of St Joseph’s Cathedral, said he was not sure what a restricted service would look like, but the church was doing its best to serve the people.

 - wyatt.ryder@odt.co.nz




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