Hamilton reverend sees 'logic' in keeping churches closed during alert level 2

A Hamilton reverend agrees with the Government's logic to keep churches closed during alert level 2.

It was announced on Monday New Zealand would move to level 2, but gatherings were capped at 10 people.

Rev Francis Ritchie says he misses spending time with his parishioners but can understand why they all need to wait until it's safer.

"I felt a bit of a sting when I first heard it because I love hanging out with my people, I love our wider gatherings, I love our people spending time together. But when I think about it, I think my logic would go to saying 'yes it is fair'," he told Magic Talk host Sean Plunket.

He says churches are different to places like bars - a type of venue that's allowed to begin operating from May 21 - because it's likely they are a group of strangers that are all in one place, but they can be separated.

"The DNA of church on a Sunday is more like family hanging out. People want to hug, they want to mingle, they want to do life together, so I guess we pose a threat in terms of it being able to spread."

Rev Ritchie believes funerals are impacted the most with the restriction of 10 people per gathering and says physical distancing measures could be imposed at these events.

"I think social distancing could be put in place. I think it's harder for people to not be present at a funeral than to be allowed to hug [at church].

"Whilst I personally disagree and I think restrictions can be put in place for funerals to be able to operate well, heck, I wouldn't want to be making the decision."

During the lockdown, Rev Ritchie says he's seen an increase in the number of people reaching out to him online who want to explore their spirituality. He believes the meditative aspects help offer a sense of calm and respite in the middle of the pandemic.

"The online presence that we're all able to provide at the moment - or that we've been seeking to provide - has been a safe way for a lot of people to explore spirituality. So there's certainly a lot more questions I've been answering from people, who I wouldn't have necessarily expected to be asking, around spirituality."

Ultimately, he can't wait to have people back at his church services again.

"I'm craving the ability to be back with people and I'm craving to be able to access what we do... When we gather together physically, that's what churches are all about and I'm really looking forward to having that opportunity again."