Local church holds COVID-19 vaccination clinic

Pastor encourages African Americans in Roanoke to get the vaccine
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 12:17 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - At High Street Baptist Church there was not a sermon Wednesday, but instead a different kind of service: a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

The Pastor of the church, Rev. Serenus Churn, is urging his congregation and all African American residents of Roanoke to get the shot.

“We’re going to be healthy. We’re going to be safe, and we’re going to take every opportunity to make our communities, our homes, our churches and our nation better,” Rev. Churn said.

Those who walked away with a band-aid and a sticker had their own reasons for taking the needle.

For Willie Waker, it is personal health.

“Heart, diabetes. I have those preexisting conditions, so I said I better go and get my shot,” he said. Waker also said he got vaccinated for his ill wife, whom he cares for.

Mary Neal is inspired by loved ones.

“My grandson in Richmond. We used to get together, you know, every month or so, and I miss the contact,” she said.

Neal, and her husband John, were also motivated to get the vaccine after some of their close friends recently died from COVID-19.

“One of my golfing partners and his wife died the other week,” John Neal said. “They just got sick and they died together. You know it was kind of a shock, because I thought he was one of the healthiest guys in the world.”

Some people arrived and registered for their shot hesitantly. Reverend Churn says many have expressed distrust in the vaccine to him because of the United States’ history of experimenting with medicine on Black Americans.

However, he says Wednesday’s turnout is encouraging.

“Don’t allow your fear to keep you away from your healing and your opportunity of being safe and secure,” Rev. Churn said.

Approximately 100 people were vaccinated at the clinic. Churn sees it as a good step for Roanoke’s African American community, since less than 10 percent of Black Virginians are getting the COVID vaccine.

Many at the clinic are hoping high turnout will turn around the statistics.

“It was very sad because I’ve had several friends who have passed during this time. And you didn’t get to see them before they, you know, passed,” Mary Neal said.

Following the community clinic, High Street Baptist Church will be resuming in-person service Sunday for the first time since the pandemic started. Worshipers will follow CDC guidelines, and caution tape and markings on the pews will encourage social distancing.

Rev. Churn says because the vaccination is underway and cases are trending down, he feels now is the right time to safely reunite.

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