James River Church this week held a clinic at each of its four Greene County locations with the Jordan Valley Community Health Center. More than 200 people came to one.
Carter McDaniel, executive pastor at Central Assembly, said hosting the events has prompted some congregants to ask him questions as they consider getting vaccinated.
"Some people say, 'OK, well if they're hosting this here, they must feel OK about it. Let me talk to them about it,'" he said. "A lot of people here have mutual respect for each other ... I'm seeing right now an openness from part our congregation that, you want to learn more."
'I WANTED IT TO BE MY CHOICE'
Louella Smith didn't want anyone to pressure her.
"I was totally against it," she said.
It wasn't that Smith, a 60-year-old from rural Aurora southwest of Springfield didn't understand the dangers of COVID. But like many who chose not to get vaccinated, the stay-at-home caretaker of a niece and nephew said she had "heard so many negative things about" the vaccine and believed it to be dangerous and untested.
The one-dose Johnson & Johnson had been temporarily halted in April over blood clots, which scientists concluded were extremely rare. A family member, she said, died within three weeks of being fully vaccinated. She didn't know the details, but it scared her.
"Friends at my old church were mad at me. I was like, 'I'm not putting that in my system!'" she said. "I thought it was something else they were making us do. I wanted it to be my choice."
Community leaders are well aware it's a delicate topic.
"I do have some deep personal feelings about it," McDaniel said, explaining his father is a physician. "I'm pretty careful because there's nothing in our statement of faith [on vaccines]. I don't feel like I'm answering that question necessarily always as a spiritual leader or an authoritative person from our church. I think it's more, 'Here's why I made the decisions I made.'"
It was ultimately many conversations with family members that persuaded Smith to get her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday at a Springfield fire station.
By last week, her daughter and son-in-law had already been fully vaccinated and she saw that they did not experience complications. Smith said she often travels to see family in Kansas City, and did not want to bring the highly contagious delta variant with her.
She has other relatives who remain opposed to being vaccinated, but hesitated when asked if she would try to persuade them to take the shot.
"For me it was a personal thing and I wouldn't pressure anybody to do it," she said. "I try to give them the information I found so that they would think about it as well. I prayed about it, and this is what I felt like I had to do."©2021 The Kansas City Star. Visit at kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.