JEFFERSON CITY — A diverse group of faith leaders of different Christian denominations held a virtual meeting to ask for the religious community to receive vaccinations.
A statement was signed by over 200 Christian pastors and ministers which urges "every follower of Jesus to realize their responsibility to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly [and] at this moment that means increasing vaccination rates in our community."
The decision to hold the meeting came from the steady rise of COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths across the state.
Cassandra Gould, the executive director of Missouri Faith Voices and an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, leads a faith-based, statewide organization pursuing justice and racial equality.
"Right now, with the Delta variant being what it is, we are not wanting to add to that list as faith leaders, we are first responders to sickness and even death, we are those who have to go through the rituals of helping to bury parishioners and community members when they are impacted by this," Gould said. "But, we also believe as Christian pastors, and in our case of multi faith, religious leaders, we believe that our role is not just to be responders to death, but to actually disrupt death."
The meeting aimed at addressing hesitancy within the Christian community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Faith leaders spoke about the different problems of hesitancy they've seen in their own communities all over Missouri.
The faith leaders also talked about misinformation that has been said about the vaccine. The Rev. Susan Naylor, an ordained Episcopal deacon and registered nurse of 30 years, said the vaccine is not experimental and is one's best chance to stay healthy and not contract the virus.
"I tell people that this vaccine is not experimental, it cannot give you COVID, and there are no tracker chips," Naylor said. "If you don't like the mask, you will really hate the ventilator."
Darron LaMonte Edwards Sr., lead pastor of United Believers Community Church, has publicly encouraged members of his church to get vaccinated. Edwards said he asked his congregation to look to him as an example of someone that has never received a flu shot but sees the importance of the vaccine.
"For 50 years, I've never even had a flu shot, but when the COVID vaccine was offered, it was a no brainer for me," Edwards said. "I was one of the first in our city to receive it, simply because when I look at the different rates of the virus and how it's attacking disadvantaged communities."