By Rev. Gerald L. Agee, Special to California Black Media Partners

Holiday celebrations have come, and while many families have safely gathered this season, we know that COVID-19 has not taken a vacation.

The Omicron variant now poses a new danger. And cases have begun a gradual rise again here in California and around the country. Therefore, we can never be too careful when it comes to keeping our loved ones safe and healthy. The death rate resulting from COVID-19 is 15% higher for Black Californians than the statewide average, according to numbers from the California Department of Public Health.

Black pastors across California recognize the urgency of this threat. We have accepted the responsibility of this fight, and we understand as faith leaders in our communities that we must combine faith with action. Prayers for healing and health must be backed up by a plan for protection and prevention.

That is why dozens of faith leaders across our state have worked together to open the doors of our churches for convenient COVID-19 testing, and some sites offer vaccinations. This effort to keep our congregations and our neighborhoods safe has been made possible with the support of our testing partner Color and the California Department of Public Health.

The pastors in our network, their congregations, staff, and volunteers have done at our churches and in our community have done an excellent job. Their effort has contributed in no small way to the high COVID-19 vaccination rate and low positivity rate we now have in California. We are truly proud and grateful.

As we mark the end of 2021 and usher in the new year, some of us may get together with people we love to reflect, celebrate, give thanks, and to ask God for grace and wisdom in 2022. During this time, we must be accountable to each other and prioritize safety, especially for those among us who are aging or otherwise fragile.

As our slogan tells us, “Don’t guess, get the test” before going back to work or school. Look up one of our centers in your community to get vaccinated and tested. It is the surest way that we can stem the spread of this virus.

As we walk into the uncertainties of the next year, we must decide to renew our hope and lead with faith even stronger than we have had this past year. With that resolve, committing ourselves to keeping each other and our communities safe will be easy.

Remember, we can push through this pandemic together and we can beat it.

About the Author

The Rev. Gerald L. Agee is the founder and pastor of Christian Friendship Church in Oakland and the statewide manager for the Black church testing program