Everyone else was on vacation when our church became mixed up with the state.
I was notified during Holy Week that someone from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) might contact me while other members of the ministerial staff were away following Easter Sunday.
What was I supposed to do?
Baptists are people who cherish and champion religious liberty, so we’re reluctant to blur the line between church and state.
However, this was a time when I was thrilled to partner with a state entity.
Early in April, Second Baptist Church in Richmond was contacted by VDH as a potential location to administer COVID-19 vaccines to the community.
Second Baptist was selected for many of the same reasons other churches have served as vaccine cite locations: adequate space, parking and community connections.
The hope for Second Baptist in partnering with VDH for a vaccine clinic was to serve the community in the common good of vaccinating vulnerable populations from COVID-19 and proving to be hospitable partners with public health organizers.
VDH wanted to reach vulnerable non-English speaking populations, and Second Baptist proved to be an ideal partner.
Second Baptist began hosting language ministries in the 1990s, and today offers weekly services in Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese.
The language ministries provided helpful inroads and contacts to publicize this vaccine event.
After a VDH site visit, a plan emerged to use the language ministries as a network for spreading information about a special clinic opportunity on April 24 at Westbury Apothecary, a local clinic site.
This avenue also provided direct contact to answer questions to those people who were hesitant about the vaccine.
A spreadsheet was created and shared with leadership from Second Baptist and VDH. Slowly, names began to populate the sheet.
Two names on a Thursday, six names the next day, and a dozen through the weekend. Eventually, all 200 spots were filled, and special permission was given to add an additional 25 spots. Those spots were filled the same day.
VDH called me two days prior to the event, expressing excitement for the amount of people that would be receiving the vaccine. However, she needed help.
Many who signed up for this vaccine spoke only Spanish or Portuguese, so more translators were needed, and there was little time remaining.
“I know a couple of former missionaries from Brazil, David and Carol Hill, that might be willing to help,” I said.
The contact from VDH was thrilled. The Hills were available, as were the language ministry pastors, and VDH secured two more Spanish-speaking translators as well.
“God is helping us,” she said in a text the day before the event.
The vaccine event was a complete success, and all available times were filled.
Andre Amaral, pastor of the Portuguese Language Ministry, reported that several people he translated for were in attendance the next day for worship.
The contact from VDH also offered to attend the worship service and provided a group forum answering questions regarding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Conversation and plans have continued, and Second Baptist plans to host two vaccine clinics in May and June.
The leadership at Second Baptist Church is thankful for the hard work of the Virginia Department of Health, and we’re hopeful to serve as hospitable partners for the common good of God’s people.