Black churches have formed pandemic-fighting national networks with a single-mindedness that mirrors their embrace of civil rights issues. A Florida task force led by Black churches has linked arms with historically black colleges and universities, offering sanctuaries as vaccination sites. The Black Coalition Against Covid-19 put out guidelines for faith leaders with tips about the pandemic and vaccination.
The Rev. Matthew L. Watley of Kingdom Fellowship A.M.E. Church in Silver Spring, Md., which shares vaccine information with congregations nationwide, bluntly confronts the Black community’s deep-seated vaccine distrust. He tells skeptics, “The ultimate conspiracy could just be, ‘Wait until there’s a global pandemic that’s disproportionately affecting African-Americans and then convince them not to take the one medical intervention that’s proven to save lives.’”
At Shorter, the Rev. Dr. Timothy Tyler has spoken about vaccination in his online services, participated on panels, and posted about his shots on Facebook. Now, when UCHealth, the health care system affiliated with the University of Colorado, sends word that it will administer 500 doses at Shorter on a Sunday, church members hit the phones, cajoling older members, offering transportation.
On a recent Sunday, after a hard year of being away from church, Dr. Love stepped back into Shorter to get her vaccine. She hailed pew mates she hadn’t seen in too long. Kneeling before the sanctuary altar, she wept.
“I prayed for those who did not have the opportunity I was blessed with, and for a healing for our nation,” she said.
Then she headed into the church’s Omar D. Blair Fellowship Hall, named for a Tuskegee Airman who became a civil rights advocate. This is where she had led Girl Scout activities. Where the church celebrated her husband after he had passed.
Now, a new milestone.
She sat down at a table to receive the shot, hopeful that it would help deliver her from the pandemic, restore her to the communal life she cherishes.