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New Mexico church works to build the Beloved Community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe hosts its second COVID vaccination clinic Monday, when it could see nearly 300 of its neighbors

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

A line forms outside First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the church’s Dec. 27 vaccination clinic. (Photo courtesy of the Rev. Andrew Black)

LOUISVILLE — Members and friends of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe, New Mexico, will be spending their Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday loving their neighbors by helping to end the pandemic.

With the New Mexico Department Health as its partner, the downtown church expects to administer at least 235 booster shots or second vaccines and to help give another 16 or more people their first shot of protection against COVID-19, which has to date killed more than 6,000 New Mexicans and nearly 850,000 Americans as well as more than 5.5 million people around the world.

Like they did during a Dec. 27 clinic that served up more than 160 vaccinations, up to 20 members and friends of the church plan to provide hospitality, logistics and other support during Monday’s clinic, which will run from noon through 4 p.m. Mountain Time. The clinic is also open to people without an appointment. A third clinic is planned at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe on Jan. 31.

The Rev. Andrew Black, FPC’s associate pastor, said that opening church doors to administer a vaccination clinic on the King holiday, which has become a national day of service, fits nicely with the church’s mission theme for 2022: building the Beloved Community.

“We see these vaccine and booster clinics as not only essential to helping save lives and alleviate suffering,” Black said, “but also as a critical way to build up King’s Beloved Community by ensuring equitable access to health resources and opportunities for all of God’s children.”

The Rev. Andrew Black, at right, and the Rev. Dr. Harry Eberts help neighbors of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe get their vaccinations or boosters during the church’s Dec. 27 clinic. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe)

By working to offer the space and the people to provide the community with vaccination clinics, Black said he sees a parallel in Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. A strength during last month’s clinic, he said, is that people felt comfortable receiving their shot in a church setting rather than somewhere else.

“The point is sometimes lifesaving help comes from the most unlikely places and unlikely people … We need to be open to this when it comes to the vaccine,” Black said. “We also need to think critically about how we care for our neighbors who are beat up on the road of life — our healthcare workers, children who can’t get vaccinated, the elderly who may get incredibly sick or even die from COVID and those with underlying conditions. We have to stop prolonging this pandemic and getting more of these terrible variants.”

Members of the National Guard participated in the church’s Dec. 27 vaccination clinic. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe)

“Our body is our temple, but in that body is an incredible brain and common sense that we must use,” he said. Black then quoted King: “Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

“Churches are still a place people understand that the truth can be spoken in love,” Black said. “Churches have the duty to try to end the pandemic and the suffering around them.” He called the congregation, led by its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Harry Eberts, “a church out in the world working to meet the needs of the community.”

Judi Haines, First Presbyterian Church’s clerk of session, said the church members she talks to “are one thousand percent behind this.”

“We support what our pastors need us to do,” Haines said. For example: If someone shows up for a vaccination but is unable to walk from their vehicle to the clinic, “we will bring the nurse to their car,” Haines said. “Whatever they need logistic-wise, that’s what we’ll do.”

More than half the congregation is 70 or older, Haines said. Another 28% of the 315 or so members are between the ages of 56 and 70.

“It’s a church with a huge outreach to the community,” she said. The congregation, which has accepted the Matthew 25 invitation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “is very supportive of mission.”

“We are hoping the rest of the faith community in Santa Fe will start to get engaged,” Haines said.

Black said an automotive metaphor is an apt one when it comes to the church loving its neighbors.

“The church must be the headlights guiding society toward compassion, justice and thoughtfulness on COVID,” he said, “and not the taillights merely following along.”

The Rev. Andrew Black and others believe it’s the duty of faith leaders to help bring the pandemic to an end. (Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe)

It’s also important “that the public hear from religious and spiritual leaders who support people getting the vaccine, who stand with science and common sense and who speak out about the unnecessary pain, loss and injustice this pandemic is causing.”

“I’ve seen firsthand the reality and pain of this pandemic,” Black said. “It is our duty as faith leaders to help others avoid such suffering as well as bring some sense of compassion, mercy and relief to our healthcare workers, who are overwhelmed by this day-to-day reality.”

“If we listen to COVID,” Black said, “it tells us a story about ourselves, a story about the kind of nation and world we live in, about oppression and injustice, about our values … and about how we treat one another.”

“We are called to be servants, to speak truth, to care for the sick and those most in need,” Black said, and “not cast stones of judgment and misinformation.”

Read an account by the Santa Fe New Mexican about First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe’s Dec. 27 vaccination clinic here. The newspaper’s opinion piece about how important it is for churches to step up during the pandemic is here.

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