Faith leaders from all over New York City gathered upon the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Thursday afternoon to tell Governor Andrew Cuomo that they, too, are essential workers.
The grand house of worship on Amsterdam Avenue became the hub which unified an amalgamation of religions on Thursday afternoon as priests, pastors, imams, and more called for places of worship to be deemed essential vaccine sites.
Organized by The Black Institute and the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, religious leaders argue they are in a unique position to aid in the facilitation of COVID-19 vaccines by both bringing the life saving needle to the neighborhoods of those who need it. They also say that as trusted community leaders, they can showcase the safety of the vaccines to their parishioners.
“We’re demanding that Governor Cuomo immediately designate our houses of worship as essential so that more of our people can get vaccinated against COVID and begin to recover. Our houses of worship can play a big role in vaccinating Black and Brown New Yorkers, but Governor Cuomo must designate them as essential to make that happen. Until a larger number of our folks are vaccinated against COVID, our communities will be left out of the recovery after COVID. Cuomo must act now and designate houses of worship as essential, so we can operate as long-term COVID vaccination sites and community health centers,” said Pastor Gil Monrose, leader of the 67th Precinct Clergy Council.
Several churchgoers and fellow New Yorkers arrived at the rally to show their support for the men and women who took turns speaking on the importance of being deemed essential. Those surrounding the steps held signs and chanted between statements. But it wasn’t only citizens who agreed with the call to action, several elected officials also lent their voice to the cause.
Manhattan Borough Gale Brewer, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and Brooklyn Borough President/mayoral candidate Eric Adams all arrived to show their support.
“I want to thank our faith leaders who have been on the forefront of addressing COVID-19. When others fled, I was there with you. We were on the ground; I spoke with my faith leaders when family members were dropping their family members at the hospital never to see them again. When they were piled up in trailers upon trailers. When they were buried on Hart Island, when no one was there we should have allowed faith leaders to go inside the hospitals with proper protection to give Last Rights and to console those family members,” Adams said to a round of applause.
Adams recalled working with religious leaders to distribute food, PPE, and to just reach out to those in need.
“If the houses of worship were open, we would have dealt with counseling, with the trauma, the uncertainty, identifying the resources that were needed,” Adams said, adding, “I know what you did because I didn’t go to the Hamptons, I went to public housing.”
He applauded the steadfast dedication of faith leaders who made every effort, despite regulations closing off houses of worship, to connect with community members to provide as much help as possible.
After Adams’ speech, religious leaders and attendees chanted, “We are essential!”