Evangelical church in Sintra opens 8 hours a day for mass vaccination
Volunteers of the Evangelical Centre of the Portuguese city support the doctors and nurses as over 36,000 will be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the next weeks.
SINTRA (PORTUGAL) · 01 APRIL 2021 · 13:06 CET
The Centro Evangélico de Sintra (North of Lisbon, Portugal) will be one of the five spots in the city where thousands of citizens will be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.
The church leadership offered its premises to the authorities at the beginning of the pandemic. “In February last year, we called the Mayor and told him that if the city needed the church for anything, they could use it, because we are here to serve”, says Luis Calaim, one of the pastors of the church, which gathers around 150 people on a Sunday worship service.
But it was in January 2021, as Portugal suffered the huge effects of a third wave, that the authorities asked the church if they could become a vaccination centre for the citizens of the occidental part of the municipality, which includes nearby rural villages.
The Councilor of Health of the Municipality of Sintra, Eduardo Quinta Nova, and the Executive Director of the Group of Health Centers in Sintra, Clara Pais, visited the church in the first day of vaccinations. / AEP
How long the church premises will be used for this purpose depends on the rhythm of vaccination and the evolution of the infections. “The authorities told us they need us for at least 4 to 6 months, but we are thinking of offering the church for as long as it is needed”.
Nurses, doctors, and church volunteers
The health initiative started on the morning of 31 March, with two shifts of 2 doctors, 6 nurses, 1 security person, 1 cleaner and four volunteers. The vaccinations will be 8 hours a day, from Mondays to Saturdays.
The aim is to vaccinate 40 people per hour, over 300 every day. Members of the church will “serve coffee, tea and cakes” to those working in the building.
Everything was ready before the vaccination started on 31 March. / Centro Evangélico de Sintra
“Serving the community”, has been the vision of this evangelical community in the past, explains Calaim. Some years ago, they organised a large solidarity fair, and they have supported organisations working in the context of drug addiction or alcholism.
“But this is the first time we do something as big as this”, the member of the leadership team admits. “All kind of people living around the church will come into our premises in the next months”.
Over 36,000 citizens are expected to be vaccinated here in the next four to six months. The church offers its building free of charge.
Will this transformation into a vaccination centre be challenging? For sure, “it is being stressful”, Calaim says hours after the doors opened. Spaces like the library had to be re-organised, musical instruments in the main worship room were removed. The internet connection must be working well, the spaces need to be cleaned.
Weekly church activities had to be rescheduled and relocated. “We do hope that we will be able to continue to have our Sunday worship services without disturbances”, says Calaim with a smile.
A majority of evangelical Christians support the vaccination against Covid-19 in Portugal. / Centro Evangélico de Sintra
Most evangelicals welcome the vaccination
Some minority groups in Portugal reject the vaccine. “On this issue, evangelicals are not different than others. There are some people who think the government uses the pandemic to control the population”, says Luis Calaim. “And there are some people in church who have a desire to serve but would have preferred that the vaccination would happen elsewhere. But most of us are very happy with this”.
The church’s involvement comes as Portugal starts a “massive vaccination” across the country. A strict lockdown is still in place, although the situation has improved much lately. “The virus incidence is decreasing, and yesterday we fell to as low as 2 deaths in all the country... after being one of the worst country in Europe in January”.
“Patience” will be needed, Calaim adds, both in general in society and among Christians. “Everything has changed now in our church for these weeks ahead. We must understand that we are helping others, and that we want to be a good witness and a blessing to others. Pray for us, pray for strength”.
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