Baptist church buildings used as vaccination centres
Several Baptist church buildings have become vaccination centres as the national programme accelerates
The Government wants everyone in the top four priority groups to have been offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by mid-February, which is around 13 million people
In several places those tasked with administering the vaccine have turned to their local Baptist church.
Leaders at Westward Ho! Baptist Church in Devon were contacted on Christmas Eve by nearby pharmacy Arnold’s. The pharmacy had applied to help support NHS England by running a Covid vaccination clinic for the area, and enquired about hiring the church’s hall. Someone connected to the pharmacist had been to several children's events held there in the past, and 'knew it would be ideal', explained pastor Tim Sutton.
The church leadership team came to ‘a swift and unanimous agreement that we'd be delighted to host the clinic.’
The venue was subsequently approved, the pharmacy took over on Monday 11 January, with the vaccinations scheduled to begin at the end of the week. The hall will be a vaccination centre for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for the next three months.
Tim said, ‘We feel it's a privilege to serve the community in this way, in the name of Jesus. For us it's about loving our neighbours - letting thousands of our 'neighbours' in this area have the benefit of a clean, warm, accessible, local place to visit for their life-saving vaccination.’
St Peter’s Baptist Church in Worcester were contacted in November by NHS England representatives. The church’s 13 year old building had a lot going for it: large lower hall, large car park, good location near to the motorway, and the possibility of using different points for entry and exits. The church voted overwhelmingly for its building to be used in this way.
‘It’s a time of national crisis,’ said senior minister Mark Elder, ‘and we just felt it was the right thing to do.’
The building was repurposed so that its lower hall now has 16 booths where it is expected that 1000 people each day will receive a vaccination. A security team has also been put in place. Once the programme starts in earnest, the church will know how best it can support it.
‘It’s an unprecedented opportunity for the church to serve,’ said Mark. ‘In years to come people will know they received their vaccination at the local Baptist church.’
Emsworth Baptist Church in Hampshire is already being used. When the Covid-19 restrictions started to take effect in the local area, the local GP surgery found that it was unable to use its own premises for the flu vaccination programme due to the social distancing requirements. It approached the Baptist church to see about renting the premises - the church is just across the road from the doctors’ surgery and in a central location. The flu vaccinations programme was very successful and so, when the question of using the church premises for the Covid-19 vaccinations came up, it was the logical next step.
Church members subsequently had to clear the premises of extraneous furniture in order to make way for hospital beds, chairs and screens and testing stations. The vaccination programme started the week before Christmas and the church is now being used for several days each week, to vaccinate what soon will be over a thousand people each day.
Ministry Assistant, Heather Powney said, ‘The church building sits right in the heart of Emsworth town centre and we want the church premises to be used for the benefit of our local community. Many of our local businesses and services have suffered due to the pandemic and many local families are struggling at this time. We are happy to be able to do something positive for our local community.
Vaccinations at Belle Vue Baptist Church in Southend began last Thursday (14 January). The local surgery approached the church and will be using the premises several days a week. Minister Andy Goodliff said, ‘We felt it was a good opportunity to be part of the solution to this pandemic and for the church to be seen as part of the community. Outside of Southend Foodbank, our buildings are not currently being used, so we had the capacity to offer.
‘We understand our buildings and our church community to be welcoming to all, and seeking to serve/make available our spaces where possible.’
Tonbridge Baptist Church (TBC) in Kent is another where vaccinations are already taking place. The church had begun conversations with the local Primary Care Network before lockdown looking at how they could work together. In autumn 2020 TBC approached the PCN with the invitation of partnering together to serve the community as a vaccine centre when the time came.
With the absence of regular activities, TBC was an ideal venue, with two large, connected halls and multiple external entrances in the midst of the community. The church is ideally situated on a bus route from the town centre and with a large amount of free parking. In ‘normal times’ the church runs and hosts a constant programme of activities, but the decision was unanimous that they should go ahead and look at adapting other activities should they return while the centre was in use.
Once a vaccine was approved planning began in earnest. Rooms were cleared ready for the NHS to step in and volunteers were recruited to help marshal those attending. In early January, the centre was set up with a strict one-way system, exclusive entrance and exit and a clear separation between the existing food bank and the vaccine centre. Vaccines started with a bumper weekend of over 3,000 vaccines delivered including a ‘Super Sunday’ in which 1000 jabs were delivered in an 11 hour day; this equates to an average of one vaccine per minute for each clinic ran so far. The church expects them to be onsite for several months delivering as many vaccines as the supply allows.
Fiona Tolhurst, who has been co-ordinating the partnership with the NHS, said, 'Our vision at TBC is to see lives being transformed – what better way to show this practically than to work with our local doctors as they seek to bring an end to this pandemic.'
The church hall at Wellington Baptist Church, Somerset is being used as a Covid vaccination team support room, just over the road from the vaccination centre. Minister Sam Griffiths contacted the local surgery to see if the church’s recently refurbished premises could be of use. He was told the Cottage Hospital over the road from the church was to be the vaccine centre - but could the church hall be used for the team?
Sam said, ‘Like all of our churches our premises have remained empty during numerous lockdowns and this was particularly ironic given that the refurbishment of our church hall (brand new windows, carpet and repaint) had just been completed.
‘It all rapidly fell into place. We are just delighted to be offering our local community and NHS this support at this significant time. Staff are walking in, warming up, and marvelling at the hospitality. A local coffee shop - Braziers - offered bags of fresh coffee for the team. Church members offered individually wrapped biscuits. NHS Admin Teams are even sat here now at tables in the warm, relaxing atmosphere at their computers.’
Please pray that the vaccination programme would bring hope and healing to our nation.
Join us in praying for the many people who will enter our church buildings over the next few weeks.
Pray that people will experience God’s great love in a personal way in this difficult time.
Pray for the staff working long hours and the logistics of what is being undertaken.