All faith leaders are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently updated their guidelines to include all clergy in any setting who can get vaccinated. Previously, only spiritual care providers in hospital settings were eligible.
The Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches Reverend Kerri Parker says this expansion is a huge relief.
"There's this recognition that the care that spiritual leaders provide really goes beyond that and it entails a significant level of risk," Reverend Parker said.
Reverend Parker says it also means more forms of care.
"We may be visiting people in their homes. We may be doing street ministries, supporting food pantries, supporting daycares, other ministries along those lines, other ways of supporting folks who are vulnerable," Reverend Parker said.
Senior Pastor at Christ to Solid Baptist Church Reverend Everett Mitchell has been providing in-person spiritual services for months. He says this expansion will allow for other leaders to visit church members.
"Allows for us to be more present with the community, allows for us to be able to provide some of the kind of spiritual care that we really are looking for," Reverend Mitchell said.
Senior Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church Charlie Berthoud has been giving spiritual care to church members as well. He looks forward to more staff receiving vaccines.
"It's a big part of a lot of pastors' jobs, to visit people who may be nearing the end of life or dealing with all sort of struggles, so to not be able to do that has been hard so it feels good to go back to doing some of that essential pastor work," Berthoud said.
Reverend Mitchell says vaccinations allow for increased spiritual services that have been missing.
"This will give more of an opportunity for some of my ministers to be able to then go into those spaces that they are accustomed to going into to support our families, children, and their own loved ones," Reverend Mitchell said.
Reverend Parker says increased vaccine eligibility means being able to serve the broader community as well.