CHICAGO (RNS) — Pastors and other church leaders have learned a host of lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic: how to stream video, preach to a crowd whose faces are masked and take drive-in confessions.
Many have also learned a new commandment.
Thou shalt not talk about vaccines.
Fewer than half of churchgoers say their clergy (44%) have spoken about vaccines, according to a survey by Pew Research. That includes just over a third (39%) who have encouraged people to get vaccines and a small number (5%) who have discouraged people from doing so. Those numbers drop for evangelical clergy, with 21% encouraging vaccines and 4% discouraging them.
One exception: historically Black churches, where two-thirds of churchgoers say pastors have encouraged their people to get vaccines. And some have even led their churches to set up on-site vaccine clinics.
A pastor and a physician, Bishop Horace Smith of Apostolic Faith Church in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, a prominent, predominantly Black congregation, feels an obligation to care for his people, physically and spiritually.