Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday (16 January) He was eligible to receive the vaccine as a healthcare chaplaincy volunteer at the central London St Thomas’ Hospital, opposite his Lambeth palace official residence. He has been volunteering at the hospital during the pandemic, offering spiritual care and support to patients, staff and visitors as part of the National Health Service (NHS) chaplaincy team.
“I want to encourage everyone to get the Covid-19 vaccine when they are invited”, Archbishop Justin said. “Staff across the NHS, and health workers across the world, are under immense pressure on the front lines of this pandemic. They deserve not just our admiration but our support – and getting the vaccine when we have the opportunity is something we can all do to help relieve the burden on them.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby chats with a patient at St Thomas’ Hospital while on one of his volunteer pastoral visits with the chaplaincy team in November 2020.
Photo: Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
He continued: “It has been a privilege to volunteer at St Thomas’ over the past year. Chaplains here and across the country are doing a vital job of providing spiritual and pastoral care to patients, staff and relatives at this acutely painful and difficult time.
“The rapid development of the vaccine is an answer to prayer – and it is central to the recovery from this terrible pandemic. Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Getting the vaccine is part of that commandment: we can show our love for each other by keeping each other safe from this terrible disease. To everyone in this country and across the world, I want to say please, please accept the invitation to get the jab when it comes – and encourage everyone around you to do the same.”
Meanwhile three Church of England cathedrals are joining the UK’s governments efforts to vaccinate all adults in the country by the end of September. Lichfield, Salisbury and Blackburn cathedrals are amongst 10 mass Covid vaccination centres that have opened in England.
Two vaccines have been approved by the UK’s regulatory authorities, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca. Both vaccines require two doses and the UK government has begun a massive vaccination exercise. So far, some 3.8 million people across the UK in the first two of nine priority groups have received the first dose of the vaccine – some have received both – and from today (Monday) the government have moved to priority groups three and four, offering the vaccination to all over 70s and people described as “clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.”
Lichfield was the first of the three cathedrals to open as a vaccination hub. “The roll out of these new vaccines to immunise us against Covid-19 was the best news of 2021,” the Dean of Lichfield, Adrian Dorber, said. “It seems apt to use the cathedral, not just because it is such a central focus of community life here in Lichfield, but because we can offer the huge space of the cathedral nave to securely and safely host this local vaccination programme, and we are delighted to be offering this to our shared community.
“Lichfield Cathedral has a long history, dating back to its medieval beginnings, of being a space of welcome and healing for the community”, he added. “We pray every day for our nation and community, especially for healing the sick and protecting the vulnerable. It’s only right we offer the cathedral as a practical means for those prayers to be answered
A man receives a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at an emergency vaccination hub set up in Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire, England.
Photo: Carl Recine / Reuters
The Dean of Salisbury, Nicholas Papadopulos, said: “We are proud to be playing our part in the life-saving vaccination programme, which offers real hope in these difficult times. The staff of our local NHS and their patients will receive a warm welcome to their cathedral, and we assure them of our constant prayer.”
In the summer – long before any vaccine was approved for use – contractors began converting the undercroft and crypt of Blackburn Cathedral into a purpose-built large scale clinic to prepare for the roll out of the vaccine programme. It is envisaged that the hub, which is accessible through its own entrance, will be used as a vaccination clinic 12 hours a day, seven days a week for up to two years.
“At the heart of the Christian faith is love and hospitality, and a God that cares for all people”, the Dean of Blackburn, Peter Howell Jones, said. “It is only right that in times of national crisis we offer our building as a safe and accessible space for this exciting vaccination programme and be here to serve the nation in these times of deep uncertainty and fear.
“We see this as a sign of great hope in the fight against this pandemic and are proud to be at the heart of that fight.”