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Topics: January/February 2022, UCC in Focus | Opinion

Should church staff be vaccinated?

Our regular Question Box columnist on who's responsible for the vaccination policy for non-ministerial personnel


Q: The United Church has said that those in ordered ministry are expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but what about other staff in a community of faith? Shouldn’t they need to be vaccinated as well? Who makes that decision?

A: When it comes to non-­ministerial staff in a community of faith, it is the responsibility of the congregation’s governing body to decide upon a vaccination policy. But clearly, there’s denominational support for ensuring the safety of all those with whom staff interact.

In the United Church, however, this is not a significant issue. When I posted this question on a clergy Facebook page, the response was that almost everyone’s staff had received their vaccines as a matter of course. Some congregations have created policies stating that all staff and volunteers must be vaccinated by a certain date or their employment and volunteer status will be revoked. And others, including my own church, have decided that congregants over age 12 must be double-­vaxxed to attend in-­person worship.

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But there are issues: I had to let go of two key volunteers in a community project I co-­chair, due to their refusal to be vaccinated. We had a baptism where the god­mother attended the service through WhatsApp, as she was unvaccinated. I know of one congregation that is struggling with the issue of an unvaccinated staff member, and it is a very difficult conversation for that church.

On its website, The United Church of Canada states that if we are sued for a COVID-­19 case, our insurance “would generally be triggered…and may also have a duty to indemnify the ministry.” As a person who started his career working in insurance claims, I would heed the words “generally and may also” and make sure that the church did everything in its power to avoid putting them to the test.


Rev. Christopher White is a minister at Kedron United in Oshawa, Ont.

This story first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2022 issue with the title “Vaccinations for Church Staff?”

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  • says:

    Personally, I think we are at the point where those who are unvaccinated are going to remain that way. No matter what their excuse is.
    If we are looking at the 10 -15% who are not vaccinated let's leave the issue alone. (I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage is lower in any denominational congregation)
    I am now at the point of thinking that the unvaccinated will not greatly compromise the heath of those who are. (Yes we do have vaccinated people in ICU, but the likelihood is slim to none comparatively.)
    As I've mentioned before, if we have a sign outside our door that says "All Welcome", could that not be a cause for a lawsuit as well?