Back in May, the reader board outside our church read, “Tired of the mask? Get the vax.” At that point, the coronavirus vaccine had begun widely available, and Covid numbers in Clark County were at last starting to drop as more and more people got vaccinated. There were still restrictions on gatherings and the CDC still advised wearing face masks in public, especially for those not vaccinated.
The good new for us now is that infections are still dropping, Washington State has now fully reopened, and Mill Plain United Methodist Church is now open for worship at 10:00 AM, with no reservations required, and fully vaccinated people do not need to mask or practice physical distance. Indeed, getting the vax has lessened the need for the mask. I still tend to wear my mask when I am in a public place, like a grocery store, though I confess I am beginning to forget to do that.
A few days after that reader board went up, I came in to the office and listened to a message on our answering machine from a woman who said we should take it down, that the vaccine was dangerous and we should listen to the Spirit. She expressed a theology that insists we rely on God to eradicate this pandemic, and that using the vaccine is somehow a betrayal of our faith. I did not call her back, though she left her number. I saw no point in getting into a debate with her. I do disagree.
Relying on science to slow the spread of the coronavirus and someday end this pandemic is not a betrayal of faith. When the devil tried to convince Jesus to demonstrate his faith by throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus said, “You shall not test the Lord your God.” I believe God has given human beings minds and the ability to delve into the mysteries of life, even the life of a virus. Our Methodist forebear, John Wesley, taught to first do no harm. That is the principle that has guided us throughout the pandemic. We have worked hard to protect ourselves and our community from spreading the virus and that has significantly changed the way we do ministry. That has been hard – and I think it has been the right choice. Now we have the tool of the vaccine to help us even further and the results are clear: it is slowing transmission. A very few people have had bad reactions to the vaccine, while the vast majority have had minor side effects at most. I am grateful to have been vaccinated as have so many others.
We left the “Tired of the mask? Get the vax” message up on the reader board until other things needed to be broadcast and not because one person warned us against it. If you have not gotten the vaccination, I encourage you to seriously consider it unless you have a medical practitioner tell you a solid reason to not get it. I am delighted to begin to welcome more people back to worship in person, even as we continue to provide our Live Stream worship. God speaks to us through science and in worship. This is the word of the Lord.