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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