Senior pastor leads talk on faith, science and vaccines


The drive to get people vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic is an important mission for the Good Samaritan Society. Society Director of Mission Integration and Senior Pastor Christy Hallenbeck Ask is doing her part to contribute to the effort. She's taking on the mission with community discussions about faith and science.

“Many conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines have cloaked themselves in religious terms, particularly in Christian religious terms. That sad reality especially pains me because at its heart, the Christian tradition is about love for the neighbor – which the vaccine profoundly embodies,” Pastor Christy says.

Sharing faith and how it applies to vaccines and medical innovations has Pastor Christy joining two Augustana University professors for a conversation.

'Deep admiration and love for science'

Ann Pederson, Ph.D., is a professor of religion at Augustana, and Jennifer Gubbels, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the biology department. The two often teach classes together covering science and religion in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“The Christian tradition, at its best and when it flourishes, is when it’s open and it’s humbled by the mystery of the world,” Ann says. “I have a deep admiration and love for science even though that’s not my field. I’m open to it and want to learn more. Some of my best conversations are when we teach together because students always ask such really interesting questions.”

Questioning the COVID-19 vaccines during their development was a top priority for Jennifer. Along with teaching biology and physiology, she’s also an instructor in immunology.

“I’m careful about what I put into my body. I always think about medicines that I’m taking or food that I’m eating or exercising and things like that. I’m careful about all of those types of things,” Jennifer says. “I followed the clinical trials and they looked really good. When it came time for me to get the vaccine, I jumped at the chance.”

Pastor Christy, a new mom, also rolled up her sleeve to get vaccinated. She supports the Society’s decision to mandate the vaccine for its employees.

“Part of the gift of the Good Samaritan Society’s 99-year Christian tradition is that it allows us to engage this conversation head-on from a faith perspective,” Christy says. “Our fundamental call as the Society is to protect and care for the residents who have been entrusted to our care. I believe our vaccine mandate is an opportunity to faithfully live into that call because it is an expression of love and care for our residents.”

A call to action

A breast cancer survivor, Ann is grateful for all those working in health care. She says it’s an important time to listen to one another and become part of the solution that ends this pandemic.

“Science needs to not be seen, or medicine, as the enemy of faith but as this partner in how we heal our bodies,” Ann says. “I encourage you to go out and get the vaccine today."

Jennifer echoes those sentiments.

“Ask your doctor all the questions you need to ask so that you feel comfortable getting it. Science has taken us a long way and it’s actually really exciting that we have this tool," Jennifer says.

A tool that can help protect the most vulnerable among us.

“Get vaccinated. Do it for yourself, for your family, for our residents and for your co-workers," Pastor Christy says. "And for my 18-month-old daughter and all others who cannot get vaccinated."

Watch the entire discussion on faith and science.

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