Religion as an Essential Service
In the government guidelines and legislation during the current lockdown, ‘Religious’ is listed as an essential service. It is EAI’s understanding, after seeking legal opinion, that this is intended to refer to clergy who are fulfilling emergency duties that cannot be fulfilled from their homes.
Of course, Evangelicals believe in the priesthood of all believers, and a number of Evangelical churches reject the clergy/laity distinction. Nevertheless, it would appear that this provision should only be applied to recognised ministers, church leaders etc.
A reasonable interpretation of this provision would mean that church leaders are classed as an essential service and may travel further than 2km from their homes when undertaking activities such as conducting a funeral, pastoral visitation in crisis situations, or delivering supplies and assistance to the elderly or vulnerable. Of course, social distancing criteria still apply.
Under the guidelines and legislation, religious providing an essential service should, if stopped and challenged, be able to provide an official ID with proof of their status. Otherwise, those ministers that belong to denominations should obtain Letters of Exemption from their denominational leaders. For independent churches that are members of EAI, we can provide leaders with a Letter of Exemption. Please contact Nick Park for more information.
(Please note, in providing this service, EAI is not purporting to set ourselves up as a denomination or as exercising any control over churches. This is simply an effort, as a body that seeks to represent believers and churches, and which has some measure of governmental recognition, to provide help at a very difficult time for us all.)