How the Vaccine Gave My Community H.O.P.E. (Hold On Pain Ends)

(Rev. Dominique Grate will be featured at the closing plenary of this year's Interfaith Leadership Institute, titled: "Meeting the Moment: Interfaith Leadership in Vaccine Distribution."  We encourage you to sign up for the ILI and join other leaders from around the country who are seeking to make interfaith cooperation the norm.  Click here for more information)

Walking across the Civic Center stage in Florence, SC, at the close of another awesome convocation, I found myself overwhelmed with the excitement of starting a new pastoral assignment. 

My start date was to be Sunday, November 10, 2019. I had just been assigned the senior pastorate of the Historic Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church in Manning, SC – a rural community of approximately 3,000 people in a county of about 30,000. 

Driving down that first Sunday for worship, I recalled with fear my words to Bishop Sam Green as he handed me my appointment that previous Friday night, “Thank you, Bishop. I won’t let you down,” with trepidation asking myself, “Dominique, what have you gotten yourself into?” 

Though I would not characterize myself as a veteran pastor – being just 29-years-old at the time – I was no novice. By now I had pastored two churches, studied at ‘the’ Wake Forest University, and been mentored by Bishop Ronnie E. Brailsford, Sr. and Presiding Elder Peris J. Lester. 

Admittedly, I was “smelling myself.” (The colloquial expression used by many youths in congregations I have pastored to describe the sensation that comes from the projection of confidence when deep down an individual is thoroughly lost or confused but believes he or she knows it all.) 

Moving to Manning in February 2020, I found myself fired up and ready to go. 

We passed a budget, adopted a new ministry strategic plan, and had even received our first class of new members…and then came COVID – the vainglorious virus that disrupted revitalization plans, cost members of the church their jobs and left an aroma of death in its wake as roughly 10% of the county’s population of 30,000 people were infected by a virus we had never even heard of. 

Upon hearing about vaccines, we like many communities across the country, were elated because it gave us H.O.P.E. (an acronym used locally which means Hold On Pain Ends). Vaccines symbolized a new birth of possibilities to return to a “new normal” because after burying 114 in our county normal is not possible. 

Seeking to do our part as a community, when opportunities presented themselves for us to help our local hospital systems and health departments, we got to work. 

We worked because we believe that as children of God we are called: 

  • To leave an inheritance for our children’s children (Proverbs 13:22); 

  • To be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13); and 

  • To be a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9). 

In response to this calling, our vaccination clinic on Saturday, June 5 spearheaded by the Clarendon Branch of the NAACP under the auspices of the South Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches GOVAC Campaign pushed us to ensure that eleven of God’s children over a 4-hour window got vaccinated. 

As one of six vaccine clinics happening across the state that weekend sponsored by the SCNAACP, we made calls to friends, disseminated flyers, engaged in social media marketing, partnered with faith-based communities, and engaged the local health department to encourage members of our community to come to get vaccinated at our upcoming clinic – centrally located next to the barbershop, across the street from city hall, blocks from most churches in town, and nearby one of my favorite gas stations. 

We were administering Moderna vaccines for the second time (having hosted a previous vaccination clinic a month earlier). We wanted everyone who had received their first vaccine to return; and we can report we had an 81% return rate. 

We vaccinated a homeless man, and ten additional persons received their second vaccines. 

To some, these numbers may seem low, but in a rural community of fewer than 900 people over the course of two vaccinations clinics we can report we vaccinated 2.6% of the population in the community we served and that is a success to which we give God all the glory. 

Special thanks to our partners at the NAACP, Summerton Town Council, Interfaith Youth Core, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. This was a T.E.A.M. effort, because “Together Everyone Achieves More.” 

Pastor Dominique Grate received his call to serve in the ordained ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. A 2013 inductee into the National Academy of Young Preachers, Rev. Grate studied at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, where he was an Ed & Jean Christman Fellow, graduating in May 2015. A Life Member of the NAACP, Columbia Urban League Young Professionals, Alpha Psi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., My Carolina Alumni Association, Rotary International, and Capital City Lodge #47. Pastor Grate is the Senior Pastor of Historic Trinity AME Church in Manning, SC. His ministry passions include rural ministry, humanitarian missions, and historical preservation. Prior to serving as the Senior Pastor of Historic Trinity, Pastor Grate served two charges in the Columbia Annual Conference: Calvary AME Church (Batesburg-Leesville) and New Mt. Zion AME Church (Lexington). 

 

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.