UNYC Director of Stewardship

Rev. Susan M. Ranous, Deacon of Stewardship   (updated 08-27-21) 
As you’re reading this article, consider that it has been over 533 days since the world changed, a pandemic raged and, for a time, everything seemed to shut down. There have been over 36,832,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with over 629,612 deaths in the United States, 2,166,366 cases in New York State alone (of which I was one!), and 53,539 deaths of New Yorkers, one of which was a coworker. Keep in mind that not everyone that had COVID was tested; so the numbers are probably actually higher! 
          Many of us were extremely careful and were doing all the right things and still got sick; some died. Even after “recovering”, some still suffer with lost of smell, lost of taste, hair loss, scarred lungs, difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue, shaking, brain fog, joint pain…and that’s just people I know. 
  Then there was good news: formation and production of vaccines to combat this horrible disease. At the time of writing this article, about 60% of the population in the United States has received at least one dose of one of the vaccines. I remember getting multiple vaccines when I was a kid, getting at least eight or more vaccines before I left for a mission trip to Haiti, getting a tetanus shot after being injured in a car accident, and getting an annual flu shot. 
          While some people became sick after the shot, I was sure that everyone, if physically and safely able, would jump at the chance to get the vaccine against COVID-19. But there’s something called vaccine hesitancy. Have you heard about that? Synonyms for hesitancy include:
uncertainty · hesitation · hesitance · doubt · dubiousness · indecision · indecisiveness · equivocation · vacillation · wavering · scepticism · nervousness · second thoughts · dithering · stalling · shilly-shallying · pausing · delay · hanging back · waiting · havering · dilly-dallying · reluctance · unwillingness · unease · misgivings · qualms · scruples · reservations 
          I get not liking to get shots, but this vaccine hesitancy seems like a lot more than dithering and shilly-shallying, isn’t it? For some, they are researching it but are open-minded. There are those that struggle with concerns about government, racism (see my summer article in The Visitor), and others. There are those that are not at all open-minded, and incorrect stories start getting shared about what happens when someone gets the shot. There are allergies and sickness and even death from the shot itself, but the percentage of that compared with the percentage of people who get sick from COVID is quite a bit smaller. 
          As people living in America, we are fortunate. Overall, many of us have enough food, clean water, homes, good health care and vaccines. Vaccines that have helped either irradicate some diseases or control many have been developed for a number of years. A simple search tells about the polio vaccine (“the vaccine everyone was waiting for”) being available in the 1950s, followed by vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, influenza, right up to COVID-19 now. During this time, vaccines for smallpox were actually stopped because the disease had actually been irradicated.
          This ability to get these vaccines and the successful control of many diseases should encourage us, as Christians, to celebrate these gifts. There are things we can do to encourage vaccination, which include: engaging with folks, by listening first, using the church building, countering disinformation, getting the Vaccine, letting black history inform, cultivating self-awareness, explaining how the vaccine works, having conversations and offering rides for folks to get the vaccine. (vaccineturnout.com)  
           While more people getting the vaccine is important to controlling this virus, there are also other steps that we can take, as Christians, and as good neighbors:
Wear our masks (we can still communicate diseases), Help others, while being careful to honor personal space and safety, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31 - NIV).   There is nothing we can do that is more important, after loving God, and following Jesus, then to love our neighbor. So how can we do that?