Healing & Wellbeing

Pray.com presents ‘Protect America,’ an Event to Promote the Physical Wellbeing of our Nation

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September 2, 2021



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LOS ANGELES, Calif., September 2, 2021 In the wake of an upsurge in COVID-19 fatalities across the United States, Pray.com will host Protect America — a faith-based conversation to promote life-saving vaccines with Pastor Donnie McClurkin and Director of National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins. The national online and radio event broadcast will be available starting Thursday, September 2 at 12 p.m. PDT / 3 p.m. EDT on Pray.com.

The discussion between Dr. Collins and Pastor McClurkin will focus on ways Americans can protect their health, provide facts about COVID-19, and deliver a faith-based perspective on vaccine uptake.

The goal of the event is to increase awareness of the recent FDA approval and increase understanding of the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in communities that have shown a higher rate of vaccine hesitancy.

“As we continue the fight to end this pandemic I am encouraged to see efforts like the ‘Protect America’ event come together and I applaud Pray.com and faith leaders for sharing their platforms to encourage vaccination,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States. “Vaccines are the best tool we have to protect our loved ones from COVID-19 and save lives.”

Pastor McClurkin will be joined by Reverend A.R. Bernard, Carlos Whittaker, and other leaders of the faith community to deliver a vital message about the life-saving measures available to protect oneself, one’s loved ones, and one’s community from COVID-19. 

“We praise God for this opportunity to be able to share vital information that people need in this very precarious time,”Pastor McClurkinsaid  “I want to help our churches see that science is a wonderful gift given to us by God, and it’s not that we are trusting government, but that we are trusting something that God has given us.”

Pastors A. R. Bernard and Carlos Whittaker echo those sentiments.

“I pray we will reach out to God and embrace his wisdom and guidance, and let faith guide us -- not fear -- as we take the necessary steps to not only protect ourselves but to protect others in our communities,” Pastor Bernard said.
“This isn't a left or right thing. This isn't a Democrat or Republican thing,” Pastor Whittaker added. “Loving your neighbor as yourself has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with God’s power. I still believe wholeheartedly that healing is available for us through the blood of the cross and the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but I also know that God has created minds and science and humans to come together to achieve miracles as well.”

Pray.com Co-founder Mike Lynn shared his appreciation for the participants to be able to come together for this discussion and for Pray.com to be able to host it.

“Pray.com is here to create a world where everyone leaves a legacy of helping others,” he said. “We’re committed to providing a platform for faith-based discussions around topics such as this that can help protect and improve people’s lives.”

Pray.com is the world’s No. 1 app for daily prayer and Bible-based audio content, reaching more than 10 million people worldwide through its mobile app and website.

Pray.com presents Protect America

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About the speakers

About Pray.com

Pray.com was launched in 2017 with a mission to grow faith and cultivate community. Pray.com is the No. 1 app for daily prayer and faith-based audio content and is the easiest way to incorporate prayer into your daily life. Pray.com provides encouragement and inspiration through Daily Prayers, Pastor Podcasts and Bedtime Bible Stories.

About Dr. Francis Collins

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., was appointed the 16th Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the only Presidentially appointed NIH Director to serve more than one administration. In this role, Dr. Collins oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. Dr. Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins is an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009. In 2020, he was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (UK) and was also named the 50th winner of the Templeton Prize, which celebrates scientific and spiritual curiosity.

About Pastor Donnie McClurkin

Donnie McClurkin is an American Gospel singer and minister. He has won three Grammy Awards, ten Stellar Awards, two BET Awards, two Soul Train Awards, one Dove Award and one NAACP Image Award. He is one of the top selling Gospel artists, selling over 10 million albums worldwide.

About Reverend A.R. Bernard

Alfonso R. Bernard, Sr., is the pastor, founder and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York. Bernard has served as the president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York representing 1.5 million Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox Christians. Bernard founded the Christian Community Relations Council (CCRC) and is currently on the board of directors for the Commission of Religious Leaders (CORL).

About Carlos Whitakker

Carlos Whittaker is a People’s Choice Award winner, a former recording artist signed to a major label, a social media maven, and currently spends the majority of his time writing books and speaking on stages around the world.

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Event transcript

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: God bless everyone. This is Pastor Donnie

McClurkin and it is my privilege and pleasure to be able to come on this

wonderful wonderful meeting. This America Zoom Fireside Chat with Dr.

Francis Collins. And I welcome everyone of you to this informative

meeting. It is surely going to give you insight that you need as we

continue on. This is founded and hosted really by Pray.com And we praise

God for the opportunity to be able to share with you information. That's

vital information that you will need in this very very precarious time.

So I'm going to open up with a moment of prayer and I want you all to

joining with me at this moment. So father we praise you. We give you

glory because you are God. There's no other God beside you. You are the

only wise God our savior to whom we bow on me and we give our lives. I

pray that you'd give us wisdom and insight during this chaotic time. I

pray that you would give us the help and the hope that we need as we

confer today as we sit down and confer I pray that your wisdom would

exude and and we are taker of this knowledge that can keep us and sustain

our lives. Thank you for Pray.com. Thank you for Dr. Collins and I asked

Lord God that the listeners would be inspired by this. You are wonderful

and we love you and to you alone we give all glory with that we ask this

in your holy name. Amen. Yeah.

Dr. Francis Collins: Amen. Okay. Wow. Well pastor, thank you so much for

joining with me for this conversation and for all the things you've been

doing to try to spread valuable and accurate information to people who

are struggling with what to do with COVID-19 I guess we all hope that by

now we'd be all done with this, but we certainly are not. Here we are in

the 4th surge With 150,000 people getting in the hospital every day and

we've once again seen the death rates start to go up again. More than

1000 people losing their lives. And almost all of those are unvaccinated

people and those lives could have been saved if we'd somehow convinced

people to receive this gift from God, which is how I see it. I'm a

believer like you, I'm a follower of Jesus, somebody who prayed earnestly

that we would find some solution for this terrible pandemic when it first

appeared in the world a year and a half ago and those prayers have been

answered by the way, science has been able to come up with solutions,

particularly the vaccines and yet somehow pastor, a lot of people are

still unsure about that and are waiting for something to see whether

there is a way for them to decide to sign up And I'm hoping this little

conversation that you and I are going to have might encourage some of

those people who have been on the fence to recognize that this is a

golden opportunity to take advantage of a real blessing in which in this

case comes in the form of a vaccine.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: Well, there's a lot of controversy that goes

behind this and I think this information will bring some resolve to a lot

of questions that people have and and can I start off by asking questions


Dr. Francis Collins: Please do. And I'm glad to do the best I can to

answer them and pastor you and other members of the clergy or in a really

important place right now to get that information and share that with

your churches because you know, look at me, I'm a federal employee. I'm

some white guy from the Washington D. C. Do I have credibility with the

people in your church? I don't know, but you do. So let me help you if

there are things that I can provide as far as evidence and facts.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: Well, well, what's going on with this, the full

FDA approval with this vaccine? What's going on? There's a lot of

different statements being hurled around what is going on with this FDA


Dr. Francis Collins: So FDA has now granted full and complete approval to

the Pfizer vaccine. That was just a couple weeks ago. FDA is the gold

standard in the world for that kind of rigorous assessment about safety

and efficacy. So if they've said full approval, they mean it. And that

means that all other considerations that you'd want to have looked at as

far as does it work. And is it safe have been judged and it is a slam

dunk that this is a vaccine that has met that standard. The Moderna

vaccine and the J and J vaccine are also being evaluated right now by

FDA. There is every expectation they will also get full approval in the

fairly near future.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: There's been so many different uh posts put out

that it's not approved, that it's only for emergencies. They've extended

the emergency usage of it. I'm a little confused and I don't really know

how to break this down to our congregation.

Dr. Francis Collins: Mm Well, it was of course initially emergency use

authorization back in December of last year because we wanted to get

these vaccines to people as quickly as possible to try to deal with the

terrible hospitalizations and deaths that were happening. But everybody

recognized that was based upon already a very rigorous data set. All of

those emergency use is dependent upon trials of at least 30,000 people.

But some people were still a little on the fence about. Have we waited

long enough to see if there might any might be long term effects. Well,

some of those people in those trials have now been out there for more

than a year and they're doing fine. There have been no surprise late

effects and I don't think they're going to be. So this full approval,

What's called a BLA by the FDA ought to be seen as a marker that if

you're hesitant because of uneasiness about that emergency use, you need

not be hesitant any further. This has gotten the good housekeeping seal

of approval from the FDA. The gold standard saying this is something you

can trust. So if people are holding back on that basis, I hope they'll

look at this and say, ok, it's done.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: All right. So, but what what does that really

mean? What does it matter? And what what are the implications behind?

Dr. Francis Collins: I think it is the case then because FDA has approved

this. This now becomes a standard medical intervention like a pill that

you might be taking for your diabetes or your blood pressure. That's gone

through that same rigorous evaluation and you get from the drugstore.

This vaccine now has that same sense of confidence attached to it, that

it works and it's safe.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: Yeah. Um, and I'm probably going to get in

trouble for these questions. But there are so many people that are saying

that there's a difference between BioNTech and Pfizer and that Pfizer

hasn't really gotten the approval but BioNTech does. I know I'm being

redundant but is there a difference.

Dr. Francis Collins: No, they basically Pfizer and BioNTech. We're

partners in developing this vaccine, BioNTech happens to be European

organization in Germany fighters. An American one they got together to

make sure they had the science that they needed to make it work. So this

vaccine is basically the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is just one

organization. One vaccine.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: Thank you so much because that's been the

prevailing question. But now for the people in my community, for those,

um, what is the most common misperception that's going on about this


Dr. Francis Collins: Well, I wish I could say there's just one that's

most common. There's a list. One that I've certainly heard a lot is that

this vaccine may actually create infertility and that of course would be

a big deal if getting vaccinated for either men or women. What's going to

have some impact on their future ability to have Children. Pastor there

is a zero, I mean zero evidence to support that. And there's a lot of

evidence against that. And so people are hearing that. I hope they will

look at the actual information and there's a site that can go and look at

called getvaccineanswers.org that will sort of lay out what we know and

it will make it pretty clear. That is not one that despite its prominence

in social media, which is very good at spreading misinformation, there's

nothing there to back that up.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: What is that website again?

Dr. Francis Collins: getvaccineanswers.org. So get vaccines answers all

one word, no spaces or anything .org. It's one of several sites that I

think has been very well designed and it's not put forward by people have

an axe to grind. They're just trying to get the information out there.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: I posted on, on, on the internet and facebook.

My second vaccination from Pfizer and it drew much, much fire. It drew

very, very many, uh, on the, uh, it caused a lot of the people with

misinformation to come on in droves. I just, I'm amazed at the level of

misinformation that's out there and while deeming this as credible based

on no facts at all. I'll say this. Um, God gave us the wonderful Science.

Science is God given. It is not something that was contrived as an anti

or something against God. It was wisdom given by God. And they said, you

know, you're trusting in in the government and not trusting in God. But

the truth of the matter is this is something that God has given for us to

be able to deal with our maladies on our own body by his grace and the

wisdom that he's given. And I'm trying to cause our churches to see this

as a God given gift called Science. What what message can I give our

churches give That will give a more of a, they will give the people more


Dr. Francis Collins: Oh Pastor. You said it very well just now and I want

to associate myself entirely with what you said as a believer. But

somebody who spent my professional life as a scientist. I think science

is a gift from God. Science is a way of exploring the creation that we've

been given and sometimes using that information to prevent diseases or

heal people who have illnesses and that is a blessing. That's an answer

to prayer. Science I think is a form of worship. It is a way in which by

studying nature, which is God's gift to us. We can even more be in awe of

the gifts that we've been given. I think I heard you in a recent piece

where you were reflected on the story of the guy who was drowning and

three different boats came by and offered to save him and he said no

God's going to take care of me and then he drowned anyway and he goes up

to heaven and God says when he says to God, hey, why didn't you save me?

I was counting on you. God points out that he tried really hard. So

prayers can be answered by people. Prayers can be answered by scientists

who are people and produce things like vaccines that can save lives. I

see that is completely compatible with having my trust in God And also

believing that science is the way sometimes that my prayers can be

answered. And I hope people in your church see that. But it sounds like

you've been hearing a lot of pushback

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: Much I've been hearing. So I'm not hearing, I've

been assaulted on so many levels behind the uh, the video of my

vaccination and um, they've considered it a betrayal of the cross. It

considered it becoming a part of the anti Christ and there and let yeah.

And that this is the Mark of the Beast.

Dr. Francis Collins: Oh, I've heard that too. But you know, I went read

Revelation 17 again just to be sure that I had a better sense of what

that vision of John was all about. It does not sound like this vaccine in

any sense of the word. So people who are throwing that away. Come on. You

know, pastor. I think also those people who are spreading information

about the vaccines that are demonstrably not true. Really need to stop

and think a minute we've lost, you know, 630,000 people have died.

Probably at least 100,000 of them didn't need to if they've been able to

take vaccines when they were offered. Many of those are people in the

church. If somebody's out there continuing to spread that false news,

they're contributing to people losing their lives and this is really

serious isn't just sort of an idol academic conversation. So I'm glad

you're willing to be out there. By the way. Something that helps people

also As when they hear that 96% of physicians are vaccinated, including

black doctors. So that tells you something, doesn't it? If this was not a

good thing for all of us with the doctors decide to take advantage of it

in such overwhelming numbers. They got access to a lot of information and

they're clearly making a decision accordingly.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: But we've had, we've used our church as

vaccination center,

Dr. Francis Collins: Good for you.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: Last of five weeks and then we have an outdoor

service every Sunday out in the open market marketplace and we brought

the vaccination center down there as well. And I believe that everyone

has the responsibility of making the right choice according to their

convictions. But for those that really would pay attention to what's

taking place and the and the drastic devastation of this virus and the

ability to freely have access to a vaccine. I want to make it available

to them. And I pray that the churches around this community would do the

same because our job is saving lives.

Dr. Francis Collins: Yes

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: I would say not just souls, but lives and we've

got to care for the people in the community. I just thank you for taking

this time for allowing us to dispel some of the misinformation and to

give some correct information that can help people live. I'm going to

continue to do this. And uh, they were telling me that I had

nanotechnology in me now and not only that I was a kid, um, I want to

move abroad cosmic power and I'm used to, you know, but all joking aside,

this is very serious moment, This very serious situation. And if the

faith based communities can lend themselves to the accuracy of the

message, tear down all of the myth, mythological, uh, misinformation

that's going on.

Dr. Francis Collins: Yeah, there's there's one more message. I think also

that faith communities resonate with if they start to think about it and

that is that the choice to be vaccinated is not just about yourself. It's

also about other people around you. I particularly worry pastor about

people with cancer who are on various drugs that suppress their immune

system. The vaccine doesn't work for them. They can get the shots, but it

won't actually generate a result because their immune systems kind of

been put down by the treatment or somebody with a kidney transplant or a

liver transplant, a heart transplant. You probably have people like that

in your church. They can't get a good immune response either because the

drugs they have to take to prevent rejection mean that the vaccine

doesn't work. So it's up to all of us to recognize they're vulnerable,

not to mention all the kids under 12 who can't get vaccinated yet either.

So this is a moment to love your neighbor. It's not just about yourself.

Even if you're not really sure you need this. Although I think you should

be think about how this is affecting your family, your friends, people

around you who maybe you don't have the choice to get immunized. You can

help them to Christians have always rallied to that kind of argument. I

hope they'll rally again right now.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: And I think through through modes of information

like this. I believe this will have a lot of people with some of the

decision making because they've gotten answers two questions and that's

important. Information is key and I thank you so much for availing

yourself to do this and to make it something comprehensive to everyone

that used

Dr. Francis Collins: Really glad to do so pastor, thank you very much for

being out there talking about this. I know a lot of people in the church

are a little uneasy about even bringing it up. But this is a life or

death situation. We've got to face it. We've got to face it square on

figure out the right thing is to do is and then make everybody here that

information you're doing that. Thank you so much.

Pastor Donnie McClurkin: I appreciate that too. And to every one of you

that are watching, I pray that you heard something that will give you a

greater understanding that in this time of pandemic there is cure, there

is help, there is a vaccine and it's up to you to come to the realization

of how important it is for you and your family and your community and

people at large. So I'm glad to be able to bring this to you. God bless


Reverend A. R. Bernard: Hello, I'm Reverend A. R. Bernard and today I'm

here as part of the protect America campaign and Pray.com to discuss the

trepidation around taking the covid vaccine and the whole issue

surrounding vaccinations. I'm the Senior Pastor of the Christian Cultural

Center in New York and New York City was the epicenter of COVID-19 Entry

into the United States here in New York City alone, COVID was infected

more than 2.2 million New Yorkers and resulted in over 53,000 deaths And

a disproportionate number of those deaths were black and brown New

Yorkers. In our congregation alone, we have a membership of over 37,000,

congregants. We lost 119 members and family of members in our church

community. I personally spent a week in the hospital in the very

beginning, back in March of 2020, suffering from COVID. I thank God that

I recovered and I'm here to speak to you. Eventually I ended up getting

the Johnson & Johnson vaccine along with the attorney general of New York

Tous James, just to help people feel safe and deal with some of the

fears. Using our platform to correct covid information, misinformation

has become an imperative uh, in our fight against the spread of the

virus. We we are really experiencing a, if I can call it a war of ideas

in our nation today and ideas are, are suggestions and opinions about the

way we should live in this world and how society should be organized,

ideas shaped beliefs, convictions and practices and we've got to be

careful with the ideas that inform us people of faith. Look to their

spiritual leaders for encouragement, understanding and direction and

trust is the foundation for all relationship, especially the relationship

between clergy and parishioners and that trust is earned and maintained

over time. And the church pulpit is a God given sacred platform to inform

the hearts and minds of the people. Uh, and it should be treated with

respect and and and guided by truth. Unfortunately, uh, it's being

hijacked by political, social and economic agendas. When we have pastors

giving guidance based upon conspiracy theories, uh, misinformation,

political agendas, the consequences can be dire. We have too many

instances of congregants dying from COVID-19 because they're being told

that the vaccines are the mark of the beast, carrier microchip in them or

part of a greater government conspiracy. And I understand it to a degree,

especially in the relationship between the African American community and

government over the last 100 years. Uh, some churches have grown in

membership exponentially over the last 18 months around these conspiracy

theories. Uh, the church should be built on truth, not information. We

have a responsibility to uh like the bible says in proverbs, you know, uh

wisdom is the principal thing. Get wisdom, but in all you're getting get

understanding and some of what's going out is sincere but sincerely

misguided, I think of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr when he said

there's nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance or conscientious

stupidity. We have a responsibility to be intelligent and that means we

must take the time to get as much information from as many sources before

making a decision. My philosophy of life is read two books on the

subject, then make up your own mind. Our nation is in a crisis and we

need the faith community to come together with wisdom and understanding

to move us beyond that crisis. I'd like to take a moment and have a word

of prayer uh as we move into a conversation and think about the state of

affairs in our nation. Uh Our Lord and God, we thank you for your

providential guidance and protection and provision, especially during

this season. In the life of our nation. Too many people are needlessly

perishing because of misinformation, ignorance or fear. Some fears

warranted, some fears unwarranted. May we now reach out to you, embrace

your wisdom, your guidance and let faith guide us and not fear guide us

to take the necessary steps to not only protect ourselves but to protect

others in our community. For we are our brother's keeper and we have a

responsibility towards the common good. We ask you and we thank you for a

response to this prayer and a spreading of people understanding the

importance the seriousness of what's going on and that there is a way to

address it. We pray this in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Carlos Whitaker: Thank you Pastor Bernard. Um My name is Carlos Whitaker

And I am the son of a baptist minister from Colon Panama and my father

immigrated to the United States in 1960 with $20 cash in the Shoeshine

Kit. And I am the result of my father's hard work and perseverance as a

black Panamanian in this country. Um and So I get to now speak and travel

full time and author books and lead a growing platform on instagram of

over 230,000 what I like to call hope dealers where every single day we

are sharing stories that are trying to pivot people's attention from fear

to hope and uh yes, so my full name is Carlos Enrique Guzman. Uh but you

can call me loose for short, that is what my mother used to call me when

I would get in trouble as a young child. Um and so yes, you know how

covid has affected me in my community. Uh you know I I sort of shepherd

and pastor this community of hundreds of thousands of people on instagram

and on twitter and on the internet and I have seen just a wave of people

not only become sick because of hesitancy and misinformation on the

vaccine, but I've seen actual people die just as Pastor Bernard mentioned

as well. I've had four close friends myself who who died because this

disease is so serious and the seriousness of the disease was not

something that they were educated on. Um so death in my own close circle,

My mother who lives in Los Angeles California was one of the first people

in Riverside county California, My 68 year old mother who got Covid and

she was unable, this was at the very beginning of late February of 2020

she was able to get a test. She was obviously there was no vaccine at the

point and I was stuck in Nashville. Tennessee was not able to get to her.

Um, she, fortunately thank God made it. Um, but as I have seen this

country moved from all of us together, uniting at the very beginning of

this pandemic saying we can get through it. And there was actually a

unification that I saw at the beginning, I've seen that completely be

decimated. Bye. Yes, by misinformation that is leading leading to

hesitancy. I myself have also gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I

made sure to get the vaccine on my instagram. So my followers could see

that I got it as well and knowing that this, um, this pandemic has

affected disproportionately as pastor said, the black and the brown and

latino communities. Um, I do feel it as a responsibility and a calling

myself to say how safe these vaccines are and also to make sure that

people know that as a follower of Christ, that I still believe

wholeheartedly in the hope that the healing is available for us through

the blood of the cross and the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ

but also know that God has created minds and science and humans to come

together to place slow motion miracles in effect as well. And so I like

to say it this way that I believe that our help is in the natural that

these vaccines that doctors all these things are very helpful for us but

our hope still remains in the supernatural. So our help is in the

natural, our hope is in the supernatural and these things can as

believers coexist together. You do not have to sacrifice one for the

other. Uh and so I'm looking forward to this conversation that pastor and

I get to have for a few minutes that hopefully will open some eyes and

allow people to realize that there is an opportunity for the end to be in

sight when we use the tools that are placed in front of us. So I would

love to pray also for our country and for healing feeling to happen.

Let's pray Lord, I am grateful right now that you have given us doctors,

medical professionals, scientists, I'm grateful that you have placed in

their minds and in their arts opportunities for them to develop these

incredible tools like this vaccine to see so many people come to finally

be healed of this disease. I also thank you um that the vaccine can be

used but also you can heal us instantly. So I just pray right now for

anyone that is listening to this that if they have any sickness in their

lungs. I prayed the blood of the cross, the power of the resurrection and

the authority that you've given us in your ascension. I pray that every

disease german virus that touches their body dies in the name of Jesus

and we just ask for lungs across this country to continue to expand and

as those lungs expand, Jesus, will you allow minds to continue to expand

as well? We are grateful for this opportunity for it is in the name of

Jesus. We say Amen and Amen Pastor Bernard. I would love to just talk

with you back and forth for a few minutes about uh maybe a little bit

more detailed level as to how Covid has affected your community and how

you've seen the vaccine to be something that is productive and helpful

when it comes to what Covid is happening.

Reverend A. R. Bernard: Well Carlos, let me begin by reflecting on your

words when you talked about the supernatural and the natural, you know

too often in certain circles within the Christian faith, we bifurcate

those two things and the reality is it's an integrated system early on

and I didn't know you were from Colon Panama. I was born in Panama was

born and I know my father was born in Colon and so I saw that on your bio

and I was like I have to talk to my,

Carlos Whitaker: Wow, yeah Mariana Rivera and I are going to be doing

some mission work going back there, you know, he's from Panama as well

and we are afro latino,

Reverend A. R. Bernard: That's right, proud of being after latino,

absolutely man. But you know, early on when I when I got saved for came

to Christ and entered Christianity and a personal relationship with

Christ I I came out of the nation of islam to the black muslim movement,

a very you know regimental movement with certain disciplines in order

etcetera. So when I came to Christianity, you know, I ended up in a

Pentecostal church man and that was that was the place of every rule

imaginable, you know around your Christian faith and Christian conduct

and I started off not really understanding or appreciating the

relationship between God, humans and creation and you know we were taught

that you know creation was problematic, it was fallen and cursed and all

that kind of stuff. So and Jesus was coming in about two weeks so you

know everything we don't need to you know to do anything but you know

stand by. But of course I I've matured and learned and grew and

understood that there is a wonderful relationship between God and his

creation and humanity and the creation that God declared good is still

good and all that it contains, it's so good, it depends on how you use

it, you know, so there's no conflict between science and and and faith in

fact they together. So then as you said in your prayer, you know, God's

gift to us of doctors and medicine and all of these things. It's all part

of helping us deal with what we understand as fallen human condition.

Carlos Whitaker: Absolutely

Reverend A. R. Bernard: Uh it's unfortunate, you know, that that some of

my colleagues as pastors take advantage of people's fear and ignorance

and you know, put them in a situation where their lives are at risk. And

I'm I'm very strong on the responsibility of leadership to guide people

intelligently. Uh in terms of my own experience, man, I went into the

hospital on March 28. I I, you know, moving about interacting with other

people and some political officials who ended up getting covid. So March

28th, I couldn't breathe. I said, you know what? I better go in and I

didn't want to go to the hospital. I because I didn't want to go there

and get Covid, you know. So,

Carlos Whitaker: absolutely.

Reverend A. R. Bernard: So I ended up going in and I spent a week in the

hospital and this was March 28. So like your your your mom. It was the

beginning of of covid hitting the U. S. I had uh Carlos every symptom

imaginable loss of smell. Uh I lost my sense of taste. I had um feelings

where my nerves were being um sort of frozen sometimes and I couldn't

touch or feel anything. I had hallucinations along with the breathing

problems, et cetera. And you know, I went through a nightmare. And of

course I I made it through by surrendering to the providence of God. God

is in charge.

Carlos Whitaker: Yes yes

Reverend A. R. Bernard: You know, and and that's that's what calmed me

down. But it was very, very serious. I had to spend a month in quarantine

and at the same time, you know, pastor along with my son who stepped in

as well and we had to mobilize and enlarge our pastoral care division

just to respond to the calls that were coming in from congregants who

were trying to figure out what to do and some who were losing loved ones.

We had to institute uh funerals, virtual funerals, all of these things

who tried to accommodate people. And it was quite a nightmare. And that's

why when the vaccines started to come out, you know, I understood that

you know, are people tend to vicariously experience life through their

pastor. So I I took time to say, well, let me see what the results of the

trials are, what the tests are of these vaccines, how the government is

responding. Let me hear what science has to say. I wanted to take them

through a process personally by going through that process. And then

finally I announced that I was taking the vaccine and like you, we did it

publicly, the attorney general of new York, Tous James. And I and we took

it publicly to help people feel a little safer and more confident. Not

everyone, but as many as we can. And then we set up vaccine sites in our

church where several 1000 people had access to the vaccine. So this was

our responsibility towards the common good.

Carlos Whitaker: That's so good. That is, that is, that is so good

pastor. I, you know, I can definitely relate in a lot of your story and

what you said, I, I personally got Covid as well uh, in November of 2020.

Um, I actually got it with um 16 friends of mine went fly fishing

together in um, uh Montana and 16 out of 16 of us got Covid and two of us

ended up in the hospital and one of us with the same strain of Covid um

ended up almost on life support and we were pleading God for his life,

praise God that he recovered and he is healthy again. Um, but just seeing

with my own friend group, um, just how the devastating effects that this

disease can have and seeing so many people who have been misinformed. Um,

and that is probably the biggest thing that I'm trying to fight on a

daily basis. I very much understand hesitancy and I am actually grateful

for you know, my own close, you know, family members, you know, let me

look at, you never want to do something just because somebody else tells

you to do it. I am all for getting educated understanding. Um, and and

learning the science behind it because as I did say before and as you

touched on, I do believe in a supernatural God. I do believe that yes,

God can heal me at the drop of a hat if I say if I pray and he makes that

his choice to heal me in that moment he can heal me. If the same God that

makes the earth spin and float can heal me from the devastating effects

of Covid and I can trust that then and and can protect me from Covid.

Then the same God that makes the earth spinning float. Can also protect

me from a side effect of the vaccine. I don't understand. Um when, when

people say, well God can protect me from Covid. I'm like, well God can

protect you from Covid. You don't need to be scared of the vaccine as

well. I try to tell people that slow motion miracles are still miracles.

If you get in a car accident and you have to go to the emergency room and

have surgery done. God is using medicine and his hands and feet of

surgeons to perform a slow motion miracle in your life. And so miracles

can be quick, miracles can be slow. But we still believe that in a God

that can be a miraculous God. In spite of the situation. And I believe

that this vaccine is actually a miracle. I believe that this vaccine is

something that God allowed man to in in in in his own image to create.

You know, there's a quote that I love um from Francis Collins, the

director of the human genome project and he says this God can be found in

the cathedral or in the laboratory by investigating God's majestic and

awesome. Creation science can actually be a means of worship. And I

absolutely believe that and I trust that with everything. So, you know,

um as I am pastoring and shepherding people online, I never and will

never shame somebody into making a decision about being vaccinated. I

don't believe the gospel tells us that's how we're supposed to

communicate. And so I'm going to communicate by loving and by showing and

by demonstrating and so by me demonstrating that I believe now this

vaccine is something that can actually end this pandemic. That's

something I'm going to do when I feel responsible to do. You know, I

think both of us pastor um come well we're both from Panama. So that's

first of all God's divine sovereignty in this conversation, but knowing

that not only the black community, but the hispanic community um have

absolute reason to not trust the government. I understand and I get it.

Um but this is something that I believe God's hand is in and I'm grateful

to even be able to share a couple of these conversations with you again,

knowing that this isn't a left or right thing. This isn't a democrat or

republican thing. Loving your neighbor as yourself has nothing to do with

politics and everything to do with his power. And that's what I'm hoping

we're doing on a daily basis.

Reverend A. R. Bernard: Absolutely. Carlos. You know, when you talk about

miracles and I believe in miracles, I'm a miracle. Your American.

Carlos Whitaker: Yes,

Reverend A. R. Bernard: we are a product of God's divine intervention

into human history and the course of life that would have killed both of

us. But here we are, alive and witnesses to a wonderful truth of God's

love, life and light uh, in Jesus Christ. But if you know the scriptures,

every miracle that Jesus did included human cooperation, even even if was

raising Lazarus from the dead, he said, he told the people to roll away

the stone. You know, he took a little boy's lunch and, and, and, and

blessed it. There was always cooperation between God humanity and

creation. You know, and we've got to understand and expand our theology.

Carlos Whitaker: Yes

Reverend A. R. Bernard: We have to expand our thinking to embrace and

appreciate that God can work in and through anyone and any thing. And

science is a gift from God. You know, the simple things that we take for

granted on a daily basis. I understand that this is something new. It was

quite a shock to American society. We've never experienced anything like

this. Well, not at this level because, you know, the 1918 Spanish flu.

Uh, it was so similar. Churches had to close down businesses had to close

down. Uh, and we did not have the benefits of it, the advances in

medicine and technology that we have today. So can you imagine if we

didn't have these things available to us, how dire the consequences would

have been. So to have this conversation with you and to hopefully through

this conversation and our prayers, because I believe God answers prayers,

you know, have people become more at ease and to carefully and and to

think in terms of faith, fear is a gift from God that is designed to

protect us. But anything taken to the extreme becomes error. Fear can be

taken to the extreme that it actually imprisons us and deprives us from

the answers to situations that we are facing, especially a medical

situation such as this. So thank you man for what you've gone through

your witness and pastoral care online, me in a congregation and pastors

around the country who have a very serious responsibility to speak into

the lives of people. The pulpit is a God ordain platform that allows us

to speak into the hearts and minds of individuals, that with that comes a

big responsibility. So you and I doing this, we know the responsibility

that goes along with this conversation that we're having today.

Carlos Whitaker: Absolutely, absolutely, Pastor Bernard, it is a big

responsibility and uh hopefully those that are watching this and

listening to this. Uh well we'll see this and say, you know what, I can

go to scripture, I can go to the Lord and I can go to Science as well.

All those things I would love to um, I would love to pray for us as as we

close our time out. Um, and and as I pray again, we're believing in the

natural and the supernatural as well. Father God. Holy Spirit. We

actually consecrate the remnants of this conversation to you. We

consecrate um the ideas that will be brought from this conversation, the

shifts in minds That will happen because of this conversation. We

consecrate those things to you as well. We offer them up to you and we

are grateful for that Lord. If there is anything that I ask for right

now, it is very specifically um, in the name of Jesus that COVID-19 cease

to exist. I just ask that you through your sovereignty, eradicate this

through every means possible. Again, that was means being the

supernatural or vaccines in the natural or being healthy and eating

correctly. All of these things that we need to do. Holy Spirit, will you

guide your people to live healthy so that we can uh tell the world more

about you may this not be the ending point for us but made this spur us

towards being your hands and feet and allowing people to hear the good

news of Jesus Christ for it is by the blood of the cross the power of the

resurrection that we both say Amen and Amen

Reverend A. R. Bernard: Amen.

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