“This is a lot of firsts,” said Senior Pastor Wendell Robinson of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church before sitting down to get his vaccination in the church’s Family Life Center.
It was the first day of the first vaccination clinic at Portland’s first African American Baptist Church. The clinics, a partnership between Providence, Medical Teams International and Mt. Olivet will be repeated every two weeks as long as there are people needing to be vaccinated.
“We are a perpetual presence in the community, and it’s important for us to do things that are sustainable,” says Pastor Robinson. “When it comes to health care and other issues, decisions are made on behalf of our community, often without checking with those who lead. But we see the tide turning, there’s more receptivity to offering us a seat at the table.”
The clinics are a case in point. Executive Pastor, Edward Williams, who organized the clinics, knew that he didn’t want vaccinations for the community to be a one-time event. “A one-day clinic can create panic and anxiety. Folks have a limited chance of getting a shot. That’s not broadly inclusive or equitable. Why should we subject our people to that kind of trauma?”
Instead, he wanted folks to have regular, predictable access at a familiar spot in their community. Providence, he said, was very open to this idea. “It’s a combined effort to get closer to equity, access and inclusion. We’ve taken talk and turned it into action. I take my hat off to the folks at Providence for doing this.”
Word about the clinics went out to the Mt. Olivet congregation, partner churches and spread through the community. For this particular clinic, people signed up online or went old school and made a phone call. About six hundred people were vaccinated over three days.
“Love looks like something,” said Pastor Robinson, after getting his vaccination. “This is a new way of loving our neighbors.”
You can watch a video of Pastor Robinson at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church below.
This article first appeared in the April 22, 2021 issue of Oregon Coronavirus Update.