by Rev. Michael Woolf for The Christian Citizen
Recently, two members of my congregation let me know that they had received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. I was surprised at the emotions I felt – could this really be the first sliver of light emerging at the end of a long, dark tunnel? While we know that the vaccine is not a cure-all for our present moment and that masking will still be necessary for quite some time, I allowed myself to feel some hope. After 10 months of this pandemic, that is not a small feat.
In the middle of that feeling of hope, I realized that I lacked some of the language that I needed to mark the occasion spiritually. So, I decided to write a prayer to be recited upon receiving the coronavirus vaccine for members of my congregation and for the wider world. As human beings, we seek rituals to mark our experiences of both the quotidian and the wondrous. It is part of our very essence to seek out ways of creating significance out of the matter of our embodied reality.
This vaccine is nothing short of miraculous in many ways. Developed at a breakneck pace by scientists and healthcare professionals, it represents the best of what humans can do to respond to crises. In other ways, it is entirely mundane – those who regularly receive a flu shot will be somewhat well prepared for the experience. The supply lines that distribute the vaccine are overburdened and sometimes prone to disastrous human error, and there is nothing more mundane than logistics getting in the way of a significant event. It is the combination of the everyday and the extraordinary that makes the coronavirus vaccine a particularly good site for ritual meaning-making.
It is my hope that those who receive the injection will not only be comforted by the prayer, but that they will find their faith strengthened. In a time where some religious communities are skeptical of the coronavirus vaccine, this prayer is an attempt to sacralize the experience, and to say emphatically that I will be receiving the vaccine when my number is called, and I encourage you to do so as well. When you do receive the vaccine, you will not do it alone; you will be held in the love of God.
A Prayer on the Occasion of Receiving the Coronavirus Vaccine
Sustainer of All,
Hold me in your care as I receive this vaccine,
The work of scientists, the labor of healthcare professionals.
Bless the swirl of molecules and antibodies,
the mystical give-and-take of my body.
Remove from me fear,
For many have gone down this path before me,
And many shall go after me.
You made all things and called them good.
Open my heart to gratitude,
Even in the midst of much suffering.
I give thanks for this jab,
A strange way to receive a blessing.
Stir my conscience to consideration of others,
That I may not forget my mask just because I am protected.
Remind me of my obligations to my community and myself,
And give me courage to receive my next dose.
Awaken me to vulnerability,
While I am a soul of light, I am an embodied being.
Draw near to me this day,
As I choose to celebrate life and community.
The Rev. Michael Woolf is senior minister, Lake Street Church of Evanston, Illinois and a ThD candidate at Harvard University