Following the announcement that the annual Blessing of the Waters will not go ahead in Sydney, Victoria and WA this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Greek Orthodox churches across Australia have also had to adapt their scheduled house blessings.
In New South Wales, due to a number of recent coronavirus outbreaks in the Northern Beaches, Berala and Croydon, masks are now mandatory in some indoor venues, including places of worship.
In Greater Sydney, household gatherings have also been reduced to a maximum of five guests including children.
These restrictions have made it difficult for traditional house blessings to go ahead. This is how some churches in Sydney are adapting (please note, this is not an extensive list):
St Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Mascot:
After seeking advice from His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia and due to the current COVID-19 restrictions in NSW, St Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Mascot has decided they will not be doing house blessings this year.
Instead, Father Athanasios and his parish “will be providing cups for everyone to take Holy Water for themselves and their homes this Tuesday and Wednesday.”
“We all know that our parishioners are always waiting with great anticipation for their parish priest to bless their homes as it is customary but this decision was taken… in order to protect our parishioners health, especially our most vulnerable members,” the parish wrote in a Facebook statement.
Greek Orthodox churches in both Liverpool and Kogarah:
Both Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Greek Orthodox Church in Liverpool and The Resurrection of our Lord, our Lady of Myrtles and St Elessa, Greek Orthodox church in Kogarah, have decided to go ahead with house blessings.
In Kogarah’s announcement, which also includes their church program for January 2021, the Parish asks that people are “home on the day the Priest has designated for your suburb, because it will not be possible for him to return a second time should you not be at home.”
Greek Orthodox Community and Parish of Prophet Elias in Norwood, South Australia:
In South Australia currently, people present in a place of worship must not exceed 1 person per 2 square metres, so the maximum capacity will depend on the size of the venue.
While the total number of people allowed at a private residence is 50.
Now although restrictions in South Australia are not as tough at the moment as they are in New South Wales, one Greek Orthodox church in the state has still decided to change the way it does house blessings this year.
The Greek Orthodox Community and Parish of Prophet Elias in Norwood has released a statement on Facebook saying Parish priest Michael “will not personally bless your homes by visiting them” this year.
“Instead a bottle of Holy Water will be available to all families, as well as prayers and instructions concerning the Sanctification of your own homes,” the post reads.
“Great Holy Water (Agiasmos) for the blessing of homes will be available for all at the services for Holy Epiphany (5th and 6th January, services from 8am).”