It was the close of our worship committee zoom, as we shared joys and concerns before closing in prayer. Faces lit up with hope and joy as they described claiming an elusive appointment or actually getting jabbed with the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
I shared my gratitude for the science that is about to make many in my congregation much safer in these strange times. And I mentioned that I’m still a good 10-15 years out of the first couple of tiers by age. And all of a sudden, the worms were out of the can.
“Surely as a minister you’re essential.”
“You should just go up to the hospital and tell them that you need to get in the queue.”
“There’s no reason for you to have to wait.”
As a person living alone, who can (and does) 90% of her work remotely, why would I need to go now? Emails, texts, calls, pre-recorded worship, Zoom don’t require me to be inoculated.
For the person most insistent in this meeting, the best thing about the vaccine rollout is getting the minister and members back into the sanctuary for worship. We could “have people show their papers so that only those with vaccinations can come in.”
And now the worms forsook returning to the can and re-homed themselves in my gut.
The reality that entire nations are waiting in line behind the richer “developed” nations, unable to purchase, much less deliver, their initial supply of vaccines wriggled in.
The truth that the online patient portals and registration systems used here in the states put those without internet or healthcare at the back of the line squirmed.
The idea that we would be ok with worship excluding anyone because they were not fortunate, rich or stubborn enough to fight their way to the front of the line cuddled up and began inviting all the -isms that reflect humanity and the church at its worst.
Which is to say, my guts were still in a knot when I went out for a run Sunday afternoon, listening to Brene Brown’s wide-ranging conversation with Melinda Gates (on Brene’s podcast Unlocking Us).
Toward the end, Melinda talked about her interactions with world leaders during the pandemic, particularly Angela Merkel in Germany and Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand. The difference she saw in their leadership wasn’t about gender, but about how they understood the interconnectedness of all people.
As soon as the work was successfully underway within their borders, they were thinking about how to help those nearby with fewer resources. Because illness anywhere is a threat to health everywhere. Particularly when illness is so tied to injustice.
There are many, many variables that will shape when and how each of us are vaccinated: where we live, the exact nature of our work, the ways we or those we love are at particular risk from the worst this virus deals out.
It would certainly be a relief to get the vaccine. It might make some aspects of my work here easier and safer. But the folks who make it possible for all of us to be safer at home need that spot in line so much more than I do. This pastor will wait.
Rev. Laura Viau is a word nerd, Whovian and triathlete who serves PC(USA) congregations in transition. She is currently training to be a beach bum while leading Shallotte Presbyterian Church in coastal North Carolina. She blogs (more often when there isn’t a pandemic) at The Viau From Here.
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