Your congregation can play a key role (or several key roles) in boosting vaccinations in your area – especially among vulnerable and under-served populations.
The AP reported on Faith Leaders Getting COVID-19 Shot to Curb Vaccine Reluctance and this recent Star Tribune article highlights how congregations have used building space, communication networks, and the familiarity of their members to help folks be more comfortable getting the vaccines.
The Lewis Center for Church Leadership offers 5 Ways Churches Can Play a Critical Role in Vaccination Efforts. And Convergence shares Church & Vaccines insights.
Others are encouraging faith leaders to take a picture while getting the vaccine – in clerical collars or other recognizable garb – and post that on personal and/or congregational social media. As a trusted leader in your community, letting folks – even and especially those who are not members of your congregation – know that you are getting the vaccine, may help diminish fears, improve hope, and remove stigmas surrounding vaccination.
You could turn that into a whole community-wide campaign or bonding goal: invite the whole congregation to take a photo while getting vaccinated or affirming that they’ve been vaccinated and display those images online. “The more the merrier”-type messaging can keep this from becoming a shaming exercise (we want to avoid that), and more a practice in encouragement and hope-building.
You and/or your congregation may want to participate in Faiths4Vaccines, an online network of faith communities and leaders who are, “leading by example, receiving the vaccine, advocating on behalf of its equitable distribution, and mobilizing their congregations to support vaccination administration [by] connecting and supporting faith communities in these life-saving efforts”.
Invite folks to share their dreams, goals, anticipations – whatever they are looking forward to doing once vaccinated – and use these as captions for their photos. Let there be glimmers of hope and New Life (oh! It’s an Easter thing, all right!!) – via “Vaccination Proclamations”!
Let the “score” behind these images be one of our many hymns about healing; Marty Haugen’s Healer of Our Every Ill, for instance.
Be sure to share true information about the vaccines, as well: let folks know why vaccines are so important and what to expect with the CDC’s Things to Know about the Covid-19 Pandemic and Possible Side-Effects after Getting a Covid-19 Vaccine. Share important vaccination information with diverse communities with Sahan Journal’s COVID-19 Vaccine Video Series: All the Information You Need in Spanish, Somali, Hmong, and English.
Parish nurses, skilled pastoral care providers, or other counselors, might be sent to vaccination centers, or become a presence of information and encouragement in shelters, food shelves, or other spaces where you can be a voice of encouragement, information, and hope for those on the margins of vaccination reception. These folks might also create brief informational and encouraging vignettes to share on your social media feeds.
UPDATED OPTION #1: BECOME A VACCINATION CENTER!
Your congregation can host a COVID-19 Vaccination Event! Bring vaccines to your community by hosting a vaccination event. Up to $5,000 may be available to support costs. MN Department of Health and health care providers can assist with planning and implementing the event.
UPDATE #2: The White House, through the HHS, published a toolkit for how organizations – including houses of worship – can work directly with vaccine providers to set up vaccination clinics in locations that people know. For more information on National Vaccine Month, click here.
Stories of Jesus’ extensive ministry of healing – especially folks on the margins – might underscore why your church is so concerned about helping people stay healthy. Matthew 9:18-25 (two stories in one of Jesus healing a woman with extensive menstrual irregularities and a small girl); Mark 2:1-12 (healing and restoring to a place in community); Mark 6:56 (abundant healing of all kinds); Luke 8:27-37 (healing an unknown and greatly feared disease, restoring the rejected one to community) offer cursory examples.
UPDATE #3: HELP FOLX FIND A VACCINATION SITE NEAR YOU
It’s super easy to do and can be built into any of the above options. Simply set up a computer and a person to facilitate its use and connect people here.
Let your congregation’s Vaccination Proclamations be a voice of hope and encouragement – and Be Vaccination Boosters – for the well-being of all!
UPDATE #4: BE LEADERS IN DELTA VARIANT PRECAUTIONS
Heather Hahn of UM News highlights how congregations across the country are meeting the reality of the increased contagion and severity of the Delta Variant – from encouraging vaccines, to requiring masks, to returning to outdoor worship, to returning to on-line only activities and worship. Read her full article here.
UPDATE #5: REACH THE UNVACCINATED WITH COMPASSION
Rev. Dana Horrell of Cooperstown UMC (NY) has written a 40-page pamphlet about COVID compassion, entitled Mobilize Vaccine Turnout! This free, downloadable resource may be a helpful guide to reaching out to unvaccinated members of your community – especially those who remain unvaccinated due to misinformation or lack of access.
Read the complete UM News introductory article here.
Download and share the Mobilize Vaccine Turnout! pamphlet here.