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Hospitality shown at vaccine event

The mass vaccination event at East End Baptist Church on Feb. 10 brought a lot to love, just a few days before Valentine’s Day.

Not only was it the first mass vaccination event in Suffolk during the vaccine rollout, providing a lot of people in the at-risk older adult group their greatest protection against the virus, but also, it allowed the 133-year-old congregation in Suffolk to show Christian hospitality to many who otherwise would never have set foot in their doors.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Wayne Faison, gave an interview the next day to the Baptist General Association of Virginia, and already he was thrilled with the event’s outcome and finding divine confirmation of the church’s decision to open its doors.

“It went above and beyond our wildest dreams,” Faison said in the interview. He noted that there had been exactly 1,017 vaccinations, and that number corresponds to the date — Oct. 17, 2017 — that the church moved into its new building on Portsmouth Boulevard after selling its East Washington Street location.

Faison related how he had preached a sermon about being community-minded in 2021, and members got the word out that East End stood ready to help. It didn’t take long for him to get a call from Del. Clinton Jenkins, who asked if the church would be willing to host a mass vaccination event and then connected health department officials with church officials.

“We were being a service for the kingdom just by opening up our doors,” Faison said.

After getting their vaccination, attendees waited out their 15-minute period to watch for adverse reactions in the sanctuary, where they were able to view a screen with calming music and information about how to connect with the church if they desired. While Faison did admit to some hesitancy to open the sanctuary for this occasion, he expressed joy that he ultimately decided for it — “No better way to spend waiting time than to spend it in the sanctuary,” he told the BGAV.

Faison also said the church received much thanks from health department staff and volunteers and people who came to get vaccinated. A handful of those people even gave donations to the church just for openings its doors, Faison said, even though that was completely unnecessary.

Faison said people who had just gotten vaccinated relayed the sense of freedom they felt, knowing that the vaccination means they will soon be much less likely to become seriously ill from the virus. The same folks will receive their second shots on March 10, also at East End.

Faison couldn’t help but see the parallel to the true freedom found in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

The congregation and staff of East End Baptist Church demonstrated true Christian hospitality in opening their doors for this event. We thank them for it, and also extend thanks to Del. Jenkins, city and health department staff and others who made this event a reality. We hope to see more like it in the near future.