Impact of COVID-19 and vaccinations on Communities of Faith
Marijke Fakasiieiki, The Fig Tree's development director, surveyed rural congregations in the region and gathered stories for this summer issue on the impact of COVID and vaccinations on their ministries.
Anonymous survey finds 94 percent vaccinated
Before COVID, Unity Spiritual Center in Spokane had in-person and virtual services, Sunday youth ministry, an active volunteer program, a barista stand, a bookstore, Spirit Groups, music fundraisers, a choir program, a chaplain program, in-person book studies and a meditation service.
They added a zoom meet and greet after virtual services called Reflections, Observations and Inspirations (ROI), zoom youth ministry events and connections, zoom Spirit Groups, zoom Book Studies.
They temporarily paused their in-person Sunday youth program, choir program and group singing during services.
Amber McKenzie, interim administrator, said they did not meet in person at the beginning of COVID and livestreamed services successfully.
"We are now meeting in person again at a reduced capacity, masked and socially distanced, as well as maintaining our livestream option," she said.
The youth ministry returned to Sunday services and welcomed children from four years old to high school age on May 23.
"We have also added back an early meditation service led by volunteers at 9 a.m. for those interested in a smaller spiritual experience," she said. "Our board of trustees' reopening priority is to maintain an environment in which everyone feels safe and welcome, regardless of vaccination status."
In late May, the board conducted an anonymous survey of members and found that 94 percent were fully vaccinated.
"It means many of our higher risk members feel more at ease attending in person and volunteering again. Youth leaders also feel more comfortable volunteering in person," she said.
"From what I have gathered, most feel the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh the risk of contracting the virus or having adverse side effects from the vaccination," Amber said.
The center has not done education—neither encouraging or discouraging vaccination—seeing it as a personal decision.
Board president Joan Broeckling believes the pandemic has "called forth greater compassion and caregiving from our congregation. We developed a fund to help members of our community who were struggling with job loss and other financial burdens. We initiated wellness calls to members to stay connected and pray together, and came together to provide meals on an ongoing basis for a longtime member who is ill.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2021