Clergy Vaccinations

Greetings, Earthlings,

There has been a lot of conversation among the people of the cloth (my cloth is organic cotton and occasionally fleece) about vaccinations. Are they available, are clergy in Group One or Group 1B or Group 2, and what should I do if I’m under 75 but have two co-morbidities and live with someone who works in a nursing home?

God help us, we don’t know what we’re doing because we have never done this before.

If all of the states had fairly well-oiled scheduling machines up and running to administer the vaccine, we would have a clearer understanding of when AND HOW we will be getting that much-desired shot in the arm.

If your state has a clear system, that’s wonderful and congratulations.
My state (commonwealth) has not rolled out information or availability in an organized fashion. There is a lot of confusion, rumors and hearsay.

My feeling is that because there is not a clear plan, clergy should get the vaccine if it is offered to us. It is not “taking someone else’s place in line” when there is no line but a crowd milling around waiting to hear when and where to go.

If someone contacts you to say, “You are clergy, your job is to be among people, please go get the vaccine here on this date,” I hope you will go without guilt or hesitation. The sooner you are immunized, the sooner you can start to become emotionally and spiritually ready to be in proximity to humans outside your “bubble” again.

We know (although there really needs to be an information campaign about this) that we will not be 100% protected against COVID-19 even weeks after our second booster shot, but we will be much, much, much safer and if we do contract the novel coronavirus or its variants, we will become much less dangerously ill than we would have without the vaccine.

We cannot throw off our masks after the first vaccine and start visiting people. First of all, our own immunity will not be very high until a couple of weeks after the second shot. Second, there is a slight chance we can still be carriers of the virus. HOWEVER, we will certainly feel far less anxious presiding at graveside, connecting with members of our communities in the parking lot or at the food drive, and bunding up on porches to chat with folks through the window.

Some of us who live alone will be able to spend unfearful time with other vaccinated friends, and given that we have suffered almost a year of total isolation, this will be a mental health boost of inestimable value.

We can also minister in informal ways to health care workers who have been de facto chaplains in this time. The ministry of healing, support and grief work with this population is, and will continue to be, crucial and should be prioritized, but by whom? I don’t know, but I do feel that those of us who feel called to reach out to those workers won’t be able to start doing so in person until we are also vaccinated.

If you want to refrain from scheduling a vaccine so that someone else can get there first, I support that completely. I just wish we could be sure that someone else will take that spot and no doses go to waste.

If someone invites you to get a vaccine, I hope you will go and get it. We have taken on a tremendous pastoral and spiritual burden in the past almost-year. The vaccine allows us to follow the good advice to put the oxygen mask over our own faces before we try to administer life-giving air to anyone else.

4 Replies to “Clergy Vaccinations”

  1. Who would have thought than the answer to “What’s the first thing you want to do once you are fully vaccinated?” would be minister to the dying?! But when I received my first shot that was my impulse. With full PPE and socially distanced of course.

  2. Thank you for this. I heard an expert respond to someone saying, “I feel guilty getting a vaccine because my parents haven’t been able to yet,” with “I understand, but it’s not like they give you a ticket that you can then pass on to the person you think deserves it more.”
    I am a hospice chaplain and a pastor, and have received both doses of vaccine. I am enormously grateful, and now feel much more comfortable providing hands-on help wherever it is needed.

  3. Thanks for this. I was thinking of foregoing my chance to get a vaccine, but the nurse at the hospital booking me said, “You are important to your congregation, and you need to get it for them and for you. That’s why we are vaccinating clergy now.” Also, as more and more research suggests vaccinated people are highly unlikely to transmit COVID at a level that can make others sick, getting vaccinated also protects our vulnerable congregants.

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