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Surrey church to become full-time vaccination centre

by Kelly Valencia

A church in Haslemere, Surrey will become a vaccination centre from 15th December.

This comes as the Pfizer and BioNtech vaccine is being rolled out in hospitals across the UK.

St Christopher's church will open its doors for four months and will receive up to 300 people per day, including some of the most medically vulnerable groups.

Rev Chris Bessant, the Rector for the church, told Premier this initiative gives the church a unique opportunity to serve the community having been unable to do so freely during the last few months.

“We've been rather restricted on how we can do something that allows us to gather together, something which is a kind of big set piece offering to the community. And so now, it seems with the vaccine station, that does provide us with that opportunity.”

St Christopher´s is one of the two churches that form the Parish of Haslemere. From next week, St. Christopher's will effectively be “taken out of worship ministry” and will remain so throughout the duration of the vaccine rollout scheme.

“On a normal Sunday, we would have split the services across the two churches. In this case, now all the church services will focus on the St. Bartholomew's church” Rev Bessant said. “We will get a little opportunity, just over the Christmas days, to be doing some services” he continued.

The church was approached by the NHS given the building satisfied many of the requirements necessary for a vaccination centre. Rev Bessant explained how the congregation initially reacted with “shock” - as the church would no longer be used for worship services - to “unreserved unbridled enthusiasm” when they realised it was a great thing for them to be doing.

Talking about the benefits the vaccination centre would bring, Rev Bessant said it would provide an opportunity for missional work.

“It reaches out to the farthest extents of the community, both in drawing people into the church to receive this wonderful blessing plus also the opportunity for people to volunteer. And that goes way, way beyond the people that we know within the church and out into the community.”

Rev Bessant continued by encouraging other churches that might be thinking of becoming a vaccination centre. He said that churches should be “taking it slowly and thinking about [it] carefully” to ensure the right balance between responding quickly to the needs of the community and taking appropriate precautions.

Given many churches and cathedrals are being approached by the NHS or have offered their space to become vaccination centres, The Church of England has responded by issuing safety guidelines.

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