Joining in Candid Conversation: Debunking Vaccine Myths with Grace, Morganton
"The vaccine was rushed, it can't possibly be safe! The vaccine is going to alter my DNA! But isn't there a microchip in it?"
We've probably heard all of these phrases and more in recent months when it comes to discussing the coronavirus vaccine. With seemingly endless news sources sharing conflicting information and after a year of constant lifestyle changes, it's no wonder people are anxious about something knew and unknown. And yet, as we approach the year-long anniversary of mask-wearing, school closings, and lockdown, we are reminded that we must keep looking forward to help things return to normal again. For Marshall Jolly, the rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Morganton, finding a way to have a healthy discussion on the misinformation surrounding the vaccine was vital to moving forward.
"I think we are fighting two pandemics, the first being COVID-19 but the second being misinformation," Jolly said. "Burke County is a rural county, one of the poorest counties in North Carolina, but there's also a lot of vitality in the community. We have a teaching hospital, the state psychiatric hospital, and a lot of healthcare jobs in Burke County, more per capita than just about anywhere except Raleigh. So because of that we have this resource for learning. And one of the ways I think about ministry is 'how can I be the bridge, how can I bring resources together with the community?'"
With this in mind, Jolly had the idea to create "Lunch & Learn," a virtual conversation on February 18th for the Burke County and wider community, helping to discuss and dissolve some of the myths surrounding the coronavirus vaccine. Jolly will also be joined by Dr. W. Robert Taylor, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at Emory University School of Medicine, and Dr. Anthony Frank, Chief Medical Officer at Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge, to discuss the impact and response to the COVID vaccine on a local and national scale. Through this conversation, Jolly hopes that people will feel comfortable asking the questions they might be unsure about, creating a safe space for all to learn and listen.
"So Dr. Taylor is going to talk generally about vaccines themselves, how they came to be, and explain some vocabulary people might not be familiar with, and Dr. Frank will speak briefly on what's going on locally in Burke County," Jolly said. "But most of the time will be for Q&A, we want to have lots of opportunity for conversation."
Residents of all counties, both in and outside of North Carolina, are welcome to join in the conversation virtually from the comfort of their homes. Jolly urges those who might have specific questions they want answered during the discussion to send them beforehand to firstname.lastname@example.org In this way, Jolly hopes to help provide a safe and understanding space for those who may have questions they are afraid to ask.
"Vigilance is a faithful posture, making informed decisions is a faithful posture, but fear is a posture that shrinks us and makes us turn in on ourselves," Jolly said. "We see over and over in scripture 'do not be afraid.' I think lack of knowledge is what leads to fear, because the central fear for all is fear of the unknown."
While due to COVID restrictions the event won't be physically taking place within the church, Jolly hopes that hosting events such as this can continue to establish the idea that no matter the circumstances, the church is a place meant for all to gather and share in community. He hopes that this work will help others feel safe to come to the church with their needs, regardless of their denomination, and that the church may stand at the center of much needed conversations and change.
"The church has a much longer memory than any of us do," Jolly said. "Grace Church has been in existence since 1845 and there have been five global pandemics in that time. The church historically has been the meeting place of the community, where they go to hear concerts and process the hard and the beautiful things in life. It's where they go to vote, where they go to talk about the needs and concerns of the day. So there's this long history of the church as the center of the community in cultural, political, educational, civic, and especially theological concerns, so I think this is one of many efforts to reclaim that."
Lunch & Learn will be taking place on February 18, 2021 from noon to 1PM via Zoom and is open to all. Click here to access the Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/98642228344 or dial in at 471-250-9358 ID # 98642228344
Have questions you want answered? Email them ahead of time to email@example.com
Click here to read an official press release from Grace, Morganton