Subject: NCC Newsletter: Advocacy and Vaccines for the People

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Advocacy and Vaccines For the People

NCC Newsletter
February 27, 2021
Sacred Work
We have now surpassed the terrible milestone of 500,000 deaths in the United States—including one of my uncles--due to the Covid pandemic. I have watched numerous tributes to various individuals who have died and I never fail to cry as their life stories are all too briefly shared. I keep thinking, ‘it didn’t have to be this way.’ Far fewer people would have lost their lives had more of us followed sensible guidelines and if leadership from the top had been responsibly exercised from the beginning.

Recently, I have been involved in a number of meetings with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders; with government officials; and with people working in the field of public health to explore ways houses of worship can be utilized as sites for the distribution of vaccines.

Soon tens of millions of doses will be available and they need to find their way into the arms of millions of people as quicky as possible. There are 100,000 local churches in the National Council of Churches alone. Already, a number of those churches are being used for vaccine distribution and I believe many more are willing to do so.

We have the space, the parking lots, and the volunteers needed to make this happen rapidly and efficiently. We are trying to work with the federal government and with local, county, and state health departments to coordinate this vital life-saving work.

We are developing guidelines so that local congregations don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time they open their doors to those seeking the desperately sought safety offered by the vaccine. This is sacred work and what better venue for it to take place than in a church, synagogue, or mosque?

Grace and Peace,

Prayer Service at the Time of 500,000 Deaths from COVID-19
As we grieve the milestone of over 500,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States, we hope our prayer service, “Words of Comfort, Prayers for the People,” sustains and encourages each of us during this time of mourning and continued struggle due to the pandemic.

We invite you to add your prayer in the comments on YouTube or Facebook, or on your own social media accounts using #ATIME2MOURN

Winter Metaphors
Tony Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary, Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations, contemplates snow as a metaphor for grace.

"I am not the first to contemplate snow as a metaphor for grace. A quick Google search demonstrates that countless others have done so. But as I sit in my chair in the corner of our sunroom, surrounded by windows that look out on our dormant garden, the alley that borders it, on the other side of that our neighbors’ yard with their kids’ jungle gym and other toys scattered about, and beyond that the tall trees quivering in the wind, and look out on the freshly fallen snow for the umpteenth time this winter, I’m drawn to this analogy."
NCC Lenten Reflections
NCC’s 2021 Lenten Reflections follow the Committee on the Uniform Series plan for reading and studying the Bible. Each Wednesday, we will share the scripture from the week’s Sunday Bible verses. We hope you will reflect on these passages of scripture during the seven weeks of Lent in light of your own experiences and relationships.
Advocacy Alert: For the People Act
Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
to turn aside the needy from justice.

Isaiah 10:1-2 NRSV

Passing reforms that protect our democracy against oppressive statutes is crucial right now. The "For the People Act" (HR1/S1) is a once-in-a-generation package of proven reforms. It would:

Expand Voting Rights and Increase Election Security by
• modernizing voter registration and access to the ballot to set minimum standards for voters in federal elections.
• Requiring states to adopt best practices for increasing voter registration in federal elections, including online voter registration, automatic registration for eligible voters, and same day voter registration.
• restoring the right to vote to people with prior criminal convictions, a harmful legacy of racial discrimination known to disenfranchise low-income and voters of color.
• improving election administration with national standards for access to the ballot including voting by mail without burdensome requirements or restrictions.
• establishing standards and process for drawing federal congressional districts, banning racial and partisan gerrymandering and requiring states to use independent redistricting commissions.

Reduce the Influence of Big Money in Politics by
• empowering low-income donors by creating a small donor matching system to finance campaigns.
• promoting transparency by requiring shadow money organizations to disclose their donors and by strengthening funding and oversight of campaign finance and political spending.

Enhance Ethics Standards for Government by
• strengthening enforcement of ethics rules and broadening conflict of interest laws related to personal financial interests (slowing the “revolving door” between government officials and lobbyists.)
• requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns publicly and making members of the U.S. Supreme Court accountable to a judicial code of ethics.

Take Action: Lawmakers need to hear from each one of us. Contact your Senators and Representative in Congress to urge them to support the "For the People Act" HR1/S1.  

Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Call for a People's Vaccine
NCC signed on to an Open Letter to President Biden calling for a People’s Vaccine, "A safe, effective, free and fairly distributed People’s Vaccine is the fastest and most effective way to fight this pandemic, reopen our businesses and schools, protect Americans and our interests, and save lives here in the US and around the world. At a time when millions of Americans and people around the world face the dual-ills of health and economic insecurity, with communities of color facing disproportionate burdens, and where too many households stand only one health crisis away from poverty, it has never been more important to deliver a vaccine that can serve to protect working people."
UMC Church Organizes Volunteers for the Community's Vaccination Site
Auburn UMC in the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church was asked to staff a mass vaccination site and decided it was an opportunity to finally make a difference in the face of the pandemic. This effort proves that, even if a church cannot host a vaccination site, members can be instrumental in delivering the vaccine to the community.

Episcopal Diocese to Vaccinate Clergy and Essential Church Employees
The Diocese of Pennsylvania petitioned to get clergy of all denominations classified as essential workers and will host a clinic to administer COVID-19 vaccines to its clergy and some church employees during the state’s next vaccination phase in March. The diocese expects about 800 people to get vaccinated at the clinic, which will be set up through a partnership with a pharmacy. Four licensed nurses from within the diocese have volunteered to administer the shots.
Promote the #Pastors4Vaccines Campaign
NCC encourages all of our communions to spread the word and participate in the #Pastors4Vaccines campaign.

As COVID-19 vaccines become increasingly available, we have an opportunity to help put a stop to the virus. It is crucial that those able to get the vaccine do so as soon as possible to protect one another. As trusted members of our communities, faith leaders are in the unique position to increase trust in the vaccine, prevent the spread of harmful misinformation, and ensure equitable distribution of doses.

From Our Partners
South Carolina Christian Action Council Announces Executive Minister & CEO
The Board of Directors of the South Carolina Christian Action Council announces the hiring of Rev. Regina H. Moore as the new Executive Minister & CEO effective February 16, 2021. She succeeds Rev. Brenda L. Kneece who retired October 31, 2020 after serving faithfully for 21 years. Regina is "looking forward to being engaged with faith leaders, local congregations, and the general public across South Carolina as a positive voice for social justice. She welcomes opportunities to speak at virtual seminars, forums, town hall meetings focused on the Council’s position on specific policy issues and racial justice work."

“Justice for Julius” National Call
Julius Jones is one of 49 Oklahoma inmates on death row, despite maintaining his innocence and the mounting compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted. The Oklahoma Council of Churches is part of the coalition seeking his release.

The death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. And, as people of faith, we are called to share in Jesus’ Luke 4:18-19 priestly calling.

The CALL TO ACTION has been issued! Please join the #JusticeForJulius Coalition on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 6pm CT. Register for this National Prayer Call. Raise awareness about Julius’ case and call for his exoneration.

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