Missouri Church Pastors Urge Public To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19
More than 200 pastors and ministers in Missouri are joining a COVID-19 vaccination awareness effort led by a Christian magazine based in Jefferson City.
The effort comes as the aggressive delta variant of the virus continues to spread across the state.
Wednesday pastors, led by Word & Way Editor-in-Chief Brian Kaylor, will launch an advertising campaign and appeal to Christians in Missouri to be vaccinated, “as a way to follow Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Missouri is second in the country, behind Arkansas, for the most new COVID cases per capita on a weekly basis. Full vaccinations in recent days have crept up to just over 40% of the population – well below the 75 to 80% needed to contain the virus.
In southwest Missouri, the region hardest hit by the delta variant so far, health officials have embarked on sometimes painstaking and personal outreach efforts to get those who are mostly hesitant to get vaccinated. or opposites. Door-to-door canvassing is one component; another encourages conversations between friends and family.
The approval of trusted figures in the community such as the clergy, they say, is essential. Springfield health officials and clinics have partnered with two prominent local churches to host clinics in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, the Missouri clergy intend to make a faith-based plea: that “every follower of Jesus realizes his responsibility to act righteously, to love mercy, and to walk in humility (Micah 6: 8). Right now that means increasing vaccination rates in our community. “
In a March poll, the Public Religion Research Institute found that white evangelical Protestants were among the major groups of religious Americans who hesitate or would refuse to be vaccinated. They were second to Hispanic Protestants.
But he also revealed that 47% of evangelical white Protestants who regularly attend church and were hesitant to get the vaccine said they would be more likely to accept an injection with a faith-based approach. Sixty-six percent said they would turn to at least one religious leader for information on vaccines, as did 70 percent of black Protestants.
Kaylor, Baptist pastor and writer, has been promoting COVID precautionary measures in churches since the start of the pandemic. The magazine devoted its January cover story to vaccinations and “encouraging it from a faith perspective,” he said.
“We have to do everything we can to talk about this moment,” he said. “Let’s get vaccinated: medically, scientifically but also theologically.”
Kaylor said he is not aware of any Christian denominations that oppose vaccination on religious grounds, but recognized anti-vaccine sentiments are being pushed by some pastors or churches at the local level.
“I don’t think you see it on a global level,” he said. “I think that’s a minority opinion. There are ministers pushing it but they are disconnected even from their own faith leaders. “
Word and Way Editor-in-chief Reverend Beau Underwood, former senior minister of First Christian Church in Jefferson City, said leaders of more than a dozen Christian denominations are joining the outreach effort, including sects over conservatives and urban and rural communities.
“It really crosses the theological spectrum,” he said.
Among those joining the Kansas City effort are Darron LaMonte Edwards, Sr., senior pastor of United Believers Community Church, and Emily Stirewalt, a former United Methodist Church ordainer and hospital chaplain.
Kaylor encouraged pastors in Missouri to share photos of themselves getting vaccinated on Facebook.
“It sounds so simple, but it can really make a difference coming from someone speaking with moral authority,” he said. “If you are sitting on a bench Sunday after Sunday, it is an important relationship with your minister, a trusted voice in your life.”