Pastor links science with religion in effort to promote COVID vaccine use

By Dennis Archambault

The philosophical conflict between faith and science has found common ground in the vision of a Florida pastor who preached his message during the pandemic – but not before six unvaccinated members of his congregation had died from COVID infections within 10 days.

Despite the devastation of the pandemic – with a disproportionate share of infections and deaths among African Americans and other minorities — this largely Black congregation failed to accept his message that divine inspiration informs science.  “It’s very frustrating knowing that these were avoidable deaths,” said Bishop George Davis of Impact Church in Jacksonville. “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.”

For Pastor Davis, getting vaccinated against the coronavirus was an act of faith, according to a Washington Post article. He believes that the vaccine is evidence of God working through scientific inquiry and development. That was a bit much for his majority Black congregation, though. Through the pandemic, he has preached about staying safe through masking and social distancing, believing in the power of prayer to work through human actions.

Pastor Davis, who became vaccinated as soon as he could, preaches not only from theology and beliefs but from personal experience. His 19-year-old daughter is living today due to a bone marrow transplant when she was a child. The procedure was still largely experimental. He believes it was a scientific miracle, made possible through divine intervention.

People can change. The multiple deaths of fellow congregants finally got the attention of church members. A recent vaccine event at the church drew 800 of 1,000 registrants.

This is a story about the response to the pandemic. But on a broader scale, it suggests there can be a bridge between science and religion, which for centuries have become polarized. It’s an opportunity for religious leaders and their health ministries to promote the connection between beliefs, prayer, and medical science.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.