One of the great joys and important pastoral functions of a minister is, as an older version of the ordination vows put it, “to go in and out among the people.”

As concerns over the transmission of COVID-19 continue, it is essential that ministers and other staff who wish to fulfill pastoral responsibilities in hospitals, long-term care homes and even the homes of parishioners, do all they can to ensure their ministry is carried out as safely as possible.

Being fully vaccinated is perhaps the best way that ministers and others who wish to return to visiting and closer physical presence with members and adherents of the church can significantly reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 for themselves and others.

The polity of the church holds that sessions are responsible for what takes place within the church building, and presbyteries are responsible for the care and oversight of both minsters and congregations.

  • Book of Forms section 109.2
    The Session is responsible for all policy and procedures with respect to the use of the church buildings and property subject to the provisions in sections 114.6 and 163.
  • Book of Forms section 200
    To the presbytery belongs the care and good order of the churches within the bounds.

Vaccination policies for congregational ministries and for ministers are the responsibility of Sessions and presbyteries to decide and not national in scope. If a Session determines that vaccination is required for Session members or for all who enter the church building, the minister will fall under that policy. Likewise, a presbytery could develop a policy that requires ministers on their roll to be vaccinated.

The development of a vaccination policy needs to be guided by local public health guidelines and requirements and will always include exemptions for grounds protected by human rights law (e.g., medical accommodation). Sample vaccination policies are widely available, including through national office. (Contact the Rev. Don Muir, Deputy Clerk in the General Assembly Office.)

Our common faith calls us to act in ways that demonstrate love for our neighbour and care for all people, especially the most vulnerable. Being vaccinated according to public health recommendations helps us to live this faith.