By Kara Witherow, Editor
On a sunny Saturday morning in March, more than 500 people showed up at St. Mary’s Road United Methodist Church in south Columbus.
In the short span of three hours, 515 people received the COVID-19 vaccine, an “awesome” feat, said Dr. Pamela Shaw-Grant, St. Mary’s Road UMC’s wellness ministry chair.
Scheduled for Saturday so more people could attend, the church’s vaccine clinic offered both drive-thru and walk-up service to allow access to as many people as possible.
“It was a lot of work, like a full-time job, but it was worth it,” said Dr. Shaw-Grant, a physician’s assistant and a member of St. Mary’s Road UMC.
The church’s vaccine clinic was overwhelmingly popular, Dr. Shaw-Grant said, stating that she received phone calls afterwards requesting another.
Partnering with the Columbus Health Department, Dr. Shaw-Grant and 12 volunteer medical professionals, most from the St. Mary’s Road UMC congregation, administered the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“We all felt a sense of accomplishment; we were helping people and giving them something that they needed,” she said. “It was very rewarding.”
In Marshallville, Rev. Brian Litch wants his church to be the first church in town with a sign that advertises free hugs.
He’s kidding about the sign, but he is more than ready for folks to feel safe congregating and gathering with one another in the church’s sanctuary again.
As a chaplain with the local police department, Rev. Litch received the COVID-19 vaccination early, but knew there were many in the community who didn’t have easy access to it.
“I knew there were a lot of people who didn’t have the transportation and means to get the vaccine,” he said.
The church – on the opposite side of the county from the health department – has an ideal parking lot for drive-through events, Rev. Litch said. After several calls with city and county officials, he and the congregation partnered with the Macon County Health Department to host a vaccine clinic Monday, April 19.
“We tried to make this as accessible as possible to everybody in the Marshallville community,” he said. “We have people in Marshallville who were vaccinated now that weren’t last week. We are grateful for it.”
With its new Family Life Center, Perry United Methodist Church hopes to “build a bridge to and from the community,” said senior pastor Dr. Brad Brady.
The church’s recent Community COVID Clinic, held April 21, is just one way the congregation is reaching out to serve its community.
Partnering with Houston Healthcare, church leaders opened the Family Life Center and organized volunteers to greet, register, and help patients.
“We want more and more of our people to be vaccinated, as many as possible,” said Dr. Brady, noting the church’s location on the south side of Houston County. More than 30 people received the vaccine at Perry UMC’s clinic, including several young adults and teenagers.
It’s important for churches to be involved with a person’s whole health, not just their spiritual health, said Dr. Shaw-Grant, because it shows the congregation’s love.
“This was a way to let people know that we care about you, we care about your health,” she said. “I knew this was the only way some people would be vaccinated. The vaccine is the way, the key. This is a passion of mine.”