'It's a very, very difficult line to walk': Theology professor urges more places of worship to talk about COVID-19 vaccinations

With New Brunswick's fourth wave of COVID-19 putting a focus on places of worship, a professor of theology is disappointed more churches haven't led proactive discussions about vaccines and vaccinations.

David Deane, a professor at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax, says segments of the community who don't trust the state or authority, are less likely to be vaccinated. Deane says this can include members of the religious community, but certainly not all.

"Churchgoers, on the whole, are more likely to be vaccinated than non-churchgoers," says Deane. "More middle-class Christians are vaccinated than the population at large, so the church is the place where these two diverse communities come into contact."

While some congregations have questioned and discouraged vaccines behind closed doors, Deane says it's a topic that should be addressed openly in the church.

"It really should be a place, I think, for building trust and maybe overcoming these obstacles that people have to being vaccinated," he says. "I don't think churches, by and large, are doing that. I don't really see many churches around that have hosted these types of conversations."

One exception would be a church in Quispamsis, N.B., which hosted a public podcast on the topic of vaccines and vaccinations this week. Kings Church Pastor Brent Ingersoll was joined by two physicians (who are members of the congregation) on the podcast.

"We're a large church and we've got folks that are still wrestling through whether or not they want to get vaccinated and they don't know what information to trust," says Ingersoll. "We're not trying to villainize anyone. It's not pro-vax or anti-vax, although both the physicians and myself on the podcast are all vaccinated."

Dean says the Kings Church should be commended for taking a step most other places of worship haven't.

"I think it's a brave thing to do, I think it's a positive thing to do," he says. "These conversations need to be happening within communities, between people who trust each other, between people who love each another.

Deane says public health officials can only do so much, adding religious leaders may be the only people to connect with some vaccine skeptics.

"It's a very, very difficult line to walk. But I think churches need to take the lead on that because we as a society are failing miserably to bring the people who are out in the cold, in from the cold."