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‘It’s such a privilege to do this’ — minister in Oxford administers Covid vaccine

15 January 2021

A NON-STIPENDIARY minister in Oxford diocese has described her pleasure at being able to carry out Covid-19 vaccinations.

An assistant curate of St Luke’s, Maidenhead, the Revd Phyllis Sopp, who was ordained deacon at Michaelmas, undertook the Oxford Local Pathway training with the intention of continuing to work as a nurse practitioner in general practice, and joined the vaccinations team when the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became available just before Christmas.

With the approval of her training incumbent, the Revd Sally Lynch, she has organised her paid hours and her ministry commitments so that she can spend two days a week on vaccinations. “I reflected on the time I had available, and decided I could step back a little from ministry to do this,” she said on Monday.

“Because of the work I do in the surgery, it has pretty much been telephone and video consultations, not seeing many patients face to face. I’ve been busy and doing valuable work, but felt it was not as much as I could do. Hospital staff are exhausted and at breaking point. It was almost like a weight lifted when I realised there was something positive I could do for the cause, which is to try and improve the situation before people get sick.”

The vaccination is a subject of much discussion among her congregation. The church has now moved all worship activity online in the lockdown, and a morning-prayer group that used to have one or two people attending now has up to 15 participants. “As we chat afterwards, it’s often, ‘Have you had yours yet?’ or ‘I’m going for mine today,’” she says. “A 91-year old chap cried when he received his. It’s such a privilege to be able to do it.”

Because the surgery where she works is in her parish, Mrs Sopp is known to many, and thus in a good position to explain or put minds at rest about issues such as the longer delay now introduced between the two doses of the vaccine. The two worlds sometimes come together: she rang someone in the locality to deal with a medical matter, to be met with, “You’re on my prayer list.”

The numbers are terrifying at present, she says, “but, before, it was just a finger in the dam. You were just trying to stop the floodgates opening. Now, things are moving.”

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