All People Considered

Photo courtesy Elizabeth Panox Leach / Virginia Theological Seminary

Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) in Alexandria, Virginia, opened the doors of its chapel in February to host a community-based COVID-19 vaccination clinic. A non-profit center, whose vaccination program focused on low-income communities and people of color disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, moved in and set up in the chapel.

“Our responsibilities as peacemakers, but also agents of the alleviation of suffering, means that these connections between seminary and community are at the heart of our mission,” said Ian Markham, VTS president. He noted that the Board of Trustees made community engagement part of the strategic plan for VTS in 2012, even creating a position of associate dean for church community engagement.

Transforming the seminary’s Immanuel Chapel into a vaccination clinic also took on a kind of redemptive significance. One of the first transmissions of COVID in the area occurred at a service in the chapel in March 2020. “March-April was pretty brutal for the seminary,” Markham said. “All our personnel were quarantined.”

Now the chapel is part of the solution. “It was the perfect venue for a clinic,” Markham said. “Getting good health care to neglected populations was definitely mission-related and our obligation as Christians.”

President Joe Biden agreed, visiting the VTS Chapel in April, and encouraging the staff, volunteers, and visitors. In comments later that day he said, “People are coming together across the different faiths to serve those most in need, with a special focus on vaccinating seniors from all races, backgrounds, and walks of life.”.

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