We offer our continued prayers for you as you express your ministry and give leadership during this challenging time of pandemic. With you, we grieve that so many in our congregations and society have fallen ill and some have succumbed by this disease. We do hold great hope, however, that we are moving towards a path out of our current status regarding the virus with the arrival of the new vaccine. We both support and intend to get the vaccine when it is our time in the roll out and would encourage each of you to do the same.
There has been some confusion in both states regarding the place of clergy in the roll out. This week we received a stronger sense of clarity in both states through Governor Beshear in Kentucky and the Indiana Department of Health in Indiana and wanted to share our learnings with you here.
This week a few Indiana-Kentucky Conference leaders met with Governor Beshear along with the Kentucky Council of Churches around the roll out of the vaccine in the state. Governor Beshear shared with us that at the current phase 1a & b of the roll out, only chaplaincy clergy are eligible to receive the vaccine. Additionally, he shared that parish based clergy will be rolled out in phase 1C. The timeline shared with us on that particular phase is the end of January or early February depending on the receiving of more vaccines. We would encourage all of our chaplain clergy in Kentucky to go ahead and schedule their vaccines now and parish based clergy can keep an eye out for the movement to 1C through the state website. The Conference Office will also send out a direct email when phase 1C has begun.
The Indiana roll out is a bit more complicated. The wording on the Indiana Department of Health’s guidelines on eligibility have caused several pastors to ask each of us if congregational clergy could claim eligibility as a “healthcare worker” or “first responder.” https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/files/Eligibility%201.5.21.pdf
Some of our pastors have received their first vaccine already claiming this status.
Chad was able to speak with an official in the Indiana Department of Health who clarified that parish clergy are not intended on being included in the phase 1a roll out. The only clergy who are intended in this phase are those who work in a health care facility, such as a hospital chaplain. Clergy who serve as hospice chaplains and as marriage and family counselors are also included in phase 1a. The supervisor with whom Chad spoke indicated that congregationally based clergy may be included in a later phase along with others like classroom teachers. Additionally, one of the complexities of the roll out has been that there are counties where clergy are being invited to get the vaccine by local officials or where doses that would normally be tossed at the end of a day are available for the public and clergy have stepped up to get the vaccine in these ways. The Indiana Department of Health indicates that anyone who receives such a direct invitation by local authorities does qualify.
While it now seems clear that congregational clergy are not intended in phase 1a, we do encourage each clergy to contact their local health department for direct guidance for the local roll out in your community. Ultimately everyone needs to be vaccinated, and we would encourage you to promote vaccination within your congregation particularly to those over 70 years of age, all of whom are now eligible.
We are grateful for you and pray for your health and safety in this challenging time.