State calls on faith leaders to help with COVID-19 vaccine conversations

Religious leaders offering vaccine help
Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 5:15 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The state is turning to religious leaders to help sell the public on the science of vaccines.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will host a series of town halls focused on answering questions and addressing skepticism that some people have.

On Thursday, faith leaders from a variety of religions will join in on the conversation.

“When people have some hesitancy in life in general, one of the people that they go to they tend to seek advice from is their clergy leader and so and that’s one of the reasons why we’re enlisting them in our, in our help, of getting the message out pertaining to the vaccine,” said Dion Williams Michigan Director of Faith-Based and Urban Affairs.

The virtual town hall on Thursday will feature:

  • Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights
  • Rabbi Mark Miller, Congregation Beth El in Bloomfield Hills
  • Bishop Charles Ellis III, Senior Pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit
  • Dr. Herbert Smitherman, MD, Detroit Receiving Hospital
  • Reverend Lydia Bucklin, Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan

“It is just like a living room conversation and we’re sitting on your couch in your living room, and having a healthy dialogue about the hesitancy, the apprehension, and trying to answer any questions and dealing in facts and not fiction,” said Williams.

Bishop David Maxwell who leads Lansing mayor Andy Shor’s interfaith advisory council says faith leaders often provide counsel in all areas of life.

“We talk about a plethora of things beyond just the faith. We talk about civil issues, civil rights issues, educational issues, health issues,” said Maxwell.

Maxwell leads the Eliezer Temple Church in Lansing and believes the town halls will be a huge help.

“Faith leaders are a vital and an integral part of our community. They have a capacity, because of the number of people that they interact with on a continuum. They have a tremendous level of trust with those persons, and with something like the vaccine that has so many questions surrounding it, the efficacy of it, and also some of the historical challenges that people, African Americans, and other persons of color have a historical mistrust of some of these things, then you can find the trustworthiness of your faith groups,” said Maxwell.

In the coming months, Michigan will also host town halls for the Black and brown community and the general public, in partnership with public health and community leaders.

All town halls will be live-streamed on the MDHHS Facebook page.

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