A Florida nondenominational bishop organized a vaccine drive for his predominantly Black congregation after seeing six unvaccinated members die from COVID-19 during a 10-day period, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
George L. Davis, a bishop at Impact Church in Jacksonville, told the Post that four of the six church members who died recently were healthy and younger than 35.
"It's very frustrating knowing that these were avoidable deaths," Davis told the Post. "You also don’t want the loved ones who are left behind to feel horrible and don’t want to seem like I’m putting guilt onto them, but the reality is, I know that these people would still be here had they gotten the shot."
The Post reported that Davis' congregation is about 75% Black, a demographic that struggles with a legacy of distrust in medical institutions.
A March study by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute found that about 36% of vaccine-hesitant Black Protestants said faith-based approaches would make them more likely to get vaccinated. Nearly 70% said they would turn to a religious leader for information about vaccination.
Davis said getting vaccinated against coronavirus was an act of faith – the shot being a sign of God guiding scientists in their attempts to curb a devastating virus.
His parishioners' deaths "emboldened" Davis to organize a vaccination drive after each of his church's three Sunday services.
The success of the first vaccine drive inspired him to organize a second one, in which more than 200 people were vaccinated and 35% of them were teenagers.
"Several people who told me out of their own mouth, 'I wasn’t comfortable doing this, but because I'm here in my church, because I’ve heard my pastor talk about it, I’m more comfortable doing it,'" Davis said. "And it isn’t just the elderly folks. It was a lot of young people, who are also being affected by it."
The bishop said he had seen various reactions to the vaccine among his more than 6,000 parishioners when cases surged. One congregation member uttered false information to the pastor, and others did not trust government and health officials.
Davis said he implemented Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines at his church, and encouraged people to get vaccinated.
The bishop said he believed medicine and faith are intertwined – something reinforced by personal experience.
When doctors diagnosed sickle cell disease in his then-infant daughter, they said she probably would not live long. Davis and his wife, a senior pastor at Impact, prayed, fasted, and took Communion every day for two years. They also researched procedures that could help their baby, the Post said.
Following a bone-marrow transplant, Davis’ daughter is 19.
"The miracle is no less of a miracle if medical science has to kick in to finish it off," Davis said. "For me, that’s a little bit of a turning point, because I’ve seen God do it with no medical help up until a point and then finish it off with medical help. And that’s what I [see] in this virus, too."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.