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Pierce County faith leaders called talk with congregations about COVID-19 variants and vaccines

The Associated Ministries of Tacoma is encouraging leaders of all faiths to take part in 'candid' and 'urgent' conversations about COVID-19.

TACOMA, Wash. — Pierce County faith leaders have invited clergy and religious leaders across the county to a conversation about COVID-19, variants and vaccines. 

The gathering is scheduled to happen Thursday, August 5th at Our Church in University Place. It's organized by Shiloh Baptist Church Pastor Gregory Christopher and Associated Ministries of Tacoma Director, Michael Yonder. 

"The purpose for this 90-minute gathering will strictly be to address facts surrounding COVID-19. Not our faith, nor our politics, but how can we work together to be a blessing and to save lives," wrote Christopher and Yoder in an e-mail invitation. 

Christopher has worked to be a source of trust and information about the COVID-19 vaccine for his members. The church hosted one of Tacoma's first pop-up vaccine clinics in March. 

"85 percent, maybe even 90-plus percent, of this congregation and some of the churches that are in my circle, they have been vaccinated because we have been pushing it," Christopher said. 

With only 51.6 percent of Pierce County residents over the age of 12 fully vaccinated Christopher hopes faith leaders can be a resource to help improve vaccination rates. 

"All we'll say is we're here to have a conversation. We want to take the politics out of this. Let's talk about some of the concerns that we have in regards to COVID," he said about the gathering. 

Earlier this month the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said it's looking to engage with more faith-based leaders. The department said it holds weekly meetings with faith leaders addressing their questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The invitation says leaders who attend will be provided lunch and a $100 stipend, which is paid for by the Associated Ministries of Tacoma. Christopher said they expect anywhere from 50 to 400 community faith leaders. 

"If we can just convince all the faith leaders to at least make the information available and hopefully not talk against it and just let the people make up their minds," Christopher said.