The Church of Scotland is encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, writes Cameron Brooks
The Rev Dr George Whyte, Principal Clerk of the General Assembly, pictured right, said it is imperative that people keep themselves and others safe.
He has signed a statement with six other faith leaders in a show of support for the vaccination programme which could see up to 400,000 people across Scotland given the vaccine every week by the end of February.
It reads: “We faith leaders in Scotland understand the difficulty that our communities are facing during this pandemic.
“We urge all faith communities to take measures that will ensure their safety and the safety of others.
“Furthermore, we support the COVID-19 vaccination programme across the community and we encourage people to be vaccinated so that they keep themselves and their neighbours safe.”
The statement, which comes after the deaths of two Catholic bishops – Philip Tartaglia in Glasgow and Vincent Logan in Dunkeld, has also been signed by Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops Conference of Scotland, Imam Hassan Rabbani, Imam of Zia-Ul-Quran Mosque, Muslim Chaplain at Heriot-Watt University, Chair of Scottish Muslim Forum, Imam Sayed Razawi, Chief Imam – Director General | Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, Dr Muhammad Rafiq Habib, Convenor, Muslim Council of Scotland, Rabbi Moshe Rubin, Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation, Senior Rabbi Of Scotland, and Most Reverend Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness; Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Church of Scotland buildings across the country will be used as vaccination centres including Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh and Dunfermline East Church in Fife.
The Scottish Government has said it aims to ensure that care home residents, NHS staff and people over-80 by the first week of February.
The over-70 group would be treated by mid-February and over-65 and vulnerable groups by March – a move that would see 1.4 million people given the jag.
Dr Whyte said: “The Church of Scotland is working with the Scottish Government to ensure that local churches continue to be part of the effort to suppress the Coronavirus outbreak by following the advice to stay at home as much as possible.
“We fully accept that the latest pandemic restrictions mean that we have to close churches again for the time being.
“While recognising that communal worship is an essential element of our faith, we also know that the Church remains present and active in our local communities even while buildings are closed.
“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure that reopening churches will happen as soon as it can be done safely.
Dr Whyte said the vast majority of members understand and support the temporary restrictions and people are looking forward to the day when they can meet in person once again.
“In the meantime, we are encouraged by the many church congregations across Scotland who are offering essential support -both spiritual and practical – to their local communities,” he added.
Principal Clerk to the General Assembly George Whyte, left, and (above) Church of Scotland Moderator Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair.