One of the stated goals of the St. Michael’s Immigrant Welcoming Congregation (IWC) is to accompany our immigrant brothers and sisters in their life journey. What we have learned in our 10+ years as a ministry at St. Michael’s is that accompaniment takes many forms.
When COVID-19 vaccines starting becoming available to Oregonians, many members of the IWC experienced big roadblocks and hours of frustration trying to schedule an appointment to receive a vaccination. The question was brought up at an IWC meeting that if fluent English speakers with access to technology and hours to spend trying to get an appointment for a COVID vaccine are stymied by the process, what must it be like for our immigrant brothers and sisters, many of whom face language, technological and time barriers?
As a ministry, we agreed that we needed to do what we could to increase access to COVID vaccines for the members of our Latinx community. A subgroup of the IWC, with clergy support, reached out to the Multnomah County Health Department to see what we could do. MCHD agreed to make St. Michael’s a “trusted community partner,” thus giving us access to appointments at special vaccine sites for BIPOC folks. In addition to appointment access, the members of the IWC were given and took the opportunity to help at these BIPOC vaccine sites. They volunteered as flaggers, greeters and with check-in, all making a difference!
Within a few weeks, members of the IWC had reached out by phone and scheduled over 50% of St. Michael’s Misa members for their first vaccination. In addition to St. Michael’s members, the IWC collaborated with clergy at the other Episcopal churches as well as with VOZ, IMIrJ and other community partners to get the word out. Overall, we assisted over 250 Spanish-speaking community members to secure vaccination appointments.