From a first-of-its-kind handbook to help churches promote good health, to fact-based Q&As, to social media cards quoting “Vaccine Champions,” the WCC is, as deputy secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, said, “promoting health holistically as an issue of justice and peace.”
The new handbook, “Health-Promoting Churches Volume II: A handbook to accompany churches in establishing and running sustainable health promotion ministries,” edited by Dr Mwai Makoka, WCC programme executive for Health and Healing, maps out a vision for local congregations to act as agents for healing.
The handbook includes guidelines, resources and tools to equip and support local Christian congregations in starting sustainable health ministries, as well as a theological and public health basis for health-promoting churches.
The week has also seen WCC “Vaccine Champions” speaking out on the importance of vaccines. Himself a Vaccine Champion, WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, has been encouraging religious leaders in all contexts to lend weight to vaccination programmes: “We must do all we can to protect people from COVID-19 and other potentially fatal diseases,” he said. “It is our duty to exercise the influence trusted upon us, beyond the pulpits in our local churches.”
The WCC Vaccine Champions are nine church leaders from different continents who joined a team of 300, mobilized by UNICEF, to raise awareness on the benefits of immunization.
WCC vaccine champion Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Wejryd, WCC president for Europe, spoke during a WCC press briefing on 28 April, about how the WCC’s resources are joining “science and reason, life and health” as well as “practical actions and public witness.”
Solid legwork in health and healing
Both before and during World Immunization Week, the WCC has been publishing resources that help promote health and healing, an area it has been involved with for decades.
Makoka also edited a previous volume, “Health-Promoting Churches: Reflections on Health and Healing for Churches on Commemorative World Health Days,” that includes 15 reflections on international commemorative health days to stimulate conversations on health matters in church congregations.
Many of these resources look ahead to the future beyond COVID-19, because, as Makoka said, “we support building back better. Inequalities are continuing. It shouldn’t be just pressing the reset button.”
In 2020, the WCC also published “Health and Hope: The Church in Mission and Unity,” a collection of previously published articles chosen to resonate with the worldwide struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and an “Ecumenical Global Health COVID-19 Response Framework” that identifies core challenges and response strategies for a global ecumenical response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also recommends specific actions.
For a comprehensive list of WCC resources, see World Immunization Week