JUST before noon on Monday, the Anglican Dean of Newcastle, the Very Reverend Katherine Bowyer, noticed a family outside Christ Church Cathedral.
They were tourists who had come to visit the landmark cathedral. Dean Bowyer advised they should go inside for a look, when they asked, "What time do you open in the morning?"
"And I said, 'We won't be. We've got to close'," recounted Dean Bowyer.
"That was harder than anything, to say that."
The doors that are usually open to all have been shut because of coronavirus.
To avoid gatherings of people and the spread of the virus, places of worship were among the nation's institutions and businesses told after a National Cabinet meeting on Sunday night to close for the time being.
So at midday Monday, the Dean of Newcastle closed the great doors of Christ Church Cathedral.
"It was so strange, to set the alarm to lock up the cathedral and to walk out the doors to bright sunshine," she said.
Across the Hunter, across the spectrum of religions, doors were being closed.
The Catholic Bishop of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese, the Most Reverend Bill Wright, said he was "disappointed it has come to this".
"However, we will cooperate in the spirit that we have so far, with the efforts of the community to stop the spread of coronavirus," Bishop Wright said.
At the Mayfield Mosque, Imam Mohamed Hamed had held dawn prayers on Monday. Then he spent the morning sanitising the space and removing prayer mats, preparing for the mosque's closure.
"This is an emergency to protect ourselves and to protect others," Imam Hamed said. "It's a really difficult decision, but there are priorities, and we need to cope with that."
For the past couple of weeks, the mosque had been asking worshippers about their recent travels, as well as checking on their health. The numbers attending Friday prayers had dramatically reduced, as limits on crowds and social distancing were introduced. Usually about 400 attend; last Friday there was less than 20.
The Newcastle Hebrew Congregation had decided after its Friday service to close the city's synagogue for the foreseeable future.
"We felt it was prudent even before this [National Cabinet decision]," said the congregation's president Max Lenzer.
He said the synagogue's closure would be felt by the congregation, because "for a lot of Jewish people, it's the one contact with the community each week".
With the physical doors locked in places of worship, denominations have been opening the window on virtual services and prayers.
"A variety of measures have been in put in place by the Catholic diocese, principally in the form of online materials and contact points that are available throughout our parishes," Bishop Wright said.
The diocese also intends to live stream mass from a closed Sacred Heart Cathedral from this Sunday.
Imam Mohamed Hamed said he was posting a daily message on social media, including on the mosque's Facebook site. He was also staying in touch with worshippers via email.
On Christ Church Cathedral's YouTube channel, prayers are posted twice daily. Dean Bowyer said she was also setting up a Bible study group on Zoom. She said the church was also using "old school" forms of communication for parishioners who were not on social media, such as making a phone call or writing a letter.
"The doors of the cathedral are shut, but the life of the cathedral continues," Dean Bowyer said. "The church is more than a building; the church is the people."
For the various religions, this is an important time of year. For Christians, Easter is approaching, and Bishop Bill Wright said that would be weighing on the minds of parishioners, with the churches closed.
"This is a serious enough impact, but particularly so at Easter time," Bishop Wright said
From April 23, Muslims observe Ramadan for a month. Imam Hamed said the public restrictions may lead to "a better chance for the family to get together".
As she closed up Christ Church Cathedral, Dean Bowyer noticed the last visitors had evidently lit prayer candles. She chose not to extinguish those little flames.
"No, today of all days, they should stay," she explained. "Because the prayer continues, even if the doors have been shut."
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