A United Church minister says their church is becoming a new kind of community hub that "drives right at the heart of faith."
Lesley Harrison is a minster with Knox United on Edmonton Street. She says their church has become known as a community spot in the area, which is why they were approached by the province to test out a new vaccination pilot program.
"They had heard that Knox, our church, is becoming a bit of an inner-city community centre where we host a number of different programs and partnerships, including inter-faith work."
Harrison says this community work has led them to be the site of a Focused Immunization Team (FIT) vaccine clinic. She says she was thrilled to be asked.
"I think we were all, including the board members, very excited to have this opportunity to provide space for more vaccines to get out there into the community."
One hundred vaccines will be available on Friday, May 14 at the church for people in their community.
"He will be monitoring very closely how many people show up, and how many people we have to run away with the hopes, at least that is my hope, that they will recognize just how critical it will be to have a series of clinics at our site."
If this clinic goes well, they could be seeing more pop-up dates.
While the large, 50,000 square-foot space is limited to gatherings of 10 people or fewer for services, that has not stopped the church from doing outreach. Over the past year, they have continued to be a community hub, including handing out meals. Harrison sees the vaccine clinic as another way they can demonstrate social justice.
"It really is the heart of what our United Church is about," the minister says, noting their focus is social justice and caring for their community. "In this particular case, this drives right at the heart of faith because I think this is about saving lives."
She says the church is very focused on its community, and the vaccine clinic is one of the ways they can respond to the current pandemic.
"One of my colleagues put it this way, that 'Jesus did not say anything about the rights of the individual, but he said a great deal about our social responsibility to one another and how to achieve social justice."
Before the pandemic, more than a hundred people would come and go in and out of the building on any given day. While this is no longer the case, they are continuing to serve their community with things such as their two meal programs. They also have been doing interfaith work, including with a Muslim group, in their community.