SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield remains one of the cities in the United States most affected by the Delta variant.

Now, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department is teaming up with local faith leaders to encourage people to get vaccinated.

“As a person of faith, I’m called to care for and love my neighbor, and one of the ways I can show love for neighbor, is by doing what I can to help mitigate the spread of a deadly virus,” said Reverend Emily Bowen-Marler.

“It’s our hope that in hosting these COVID vaccination events at each of our James River Church campuses, that those who are unvaccinated will be encouraged to get vaccinated,” said David Lindell who is the pastor at James River Church.

Besides achieving herd immunity, faith leaders say there is another benefit to getting vaccinated.

“To get rid of these pesky masks,” said Pastor David Jane. “And the only way we can do that is for us to get everyone vaccinated. We want to make sure that we have the opportunity to worship and to meet like we want to. And we can’t right now because of the way that this virus is spreading through our community.”

City and health leaders say the mask mandate was just a temporary solution.

“Vaccination is the solution,” said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure. “And while we are one of the unfortunate few early hot spots of the Delta variant, we are not giving up. It is not too late.”

“I think God gave us brains to be able to develop new technologies and new ways of living in this world, I think that’s us using the gifts that God gave us to the fullest of our potential,” said Bowen-Marler.

Pastors at Central Assembly say they are seeing more of their congregation getting the shots.

“For people that have been unvaccinated, maybe they feel like they’re not at deep risk for COVID, I think you’re seeing that perception change during this Delta variant surge as well,” said Carter McDaniel, executive pastor for Central Assembly.