The Bishop’s E-pistle: The Way Back to Community

Last Wednesday, I was privileged to speak at a clergy vaccination event sponsored by the State of Arizona, held at First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix. Ten representatives of different faith traditions, all of whom were eligible to receive the vaccine due to age, were vaccinated. Father Enrique Cadena of Iglesia San Pablo, Phoenix, received the vaccine on behalf of our diocese.

At that event, I spoke about how Jesus is a healer, and a restorer to health. I spoke about how medicine and scientific knowledge are gifts from God, and are not necessarily opposed to a life of faith.

Often, when Jesus heals someone, he tells them to go home. He restores them not just to physical and emotional health, but to community–to family, work, and worship.

This vaccine, for us, is the way to get back to community. It is the best path forward towards worshipping together, going to school, working, and helping our local businesses thrive. Receiving the vaccine is an act of love not just because it protects you, but because it helps protect your neighbor and the life, livelihood, and thriving of all our neighbors.

If you are eligible to receive the vaccine and your doctor says it is safe for you to do so, I encourage you to receive it as soon as you are eligible.

I know there are real and substantive problems with the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) website and other means for enrolling to receive the COVID vaccine. They are not accessible and equitable to all. I am incredibly grateful to the lay and clergy leaders of our churches who have helped others sign up for vaccines when the process was too difficult, and encourage our members to continue to help those who lack internet access to sign up.

I also know that some groups within our churches have very real and legitimate suspicion of the medical profession–particularly those that come from government programs. I do not want to minimize those concerns in any way; but I also want desperately to help fight a virus that has so disproportionately affected our indigenous, Black, and Hispanic communities.

On a call with a public health expert on Monday, the House of Bishops heard that they anticipate that by the end of March or April, availability of the vaccine will no longer be limited by supply as it is now. It will be limited by demand. There will no longer be people clamoring to receive it. Now is the time that we, as a church and as lovers of our communities, need to step forward to encourage our members and those in our circles to seek vaccination whenever they are eligible.

If you have questions about the vaccines, you can learn more on the CDC website.