LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Father Rafael Pereira serves a faith-based community in Las Vegas of about 500 members.
“Most of them are from Mexico, from South America, Central America, a lot of Hispanic, and some who were born here in the United States, says Pereira, the priest in charge at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
When the pandemic hit, many joyous occasions typically celebrated were replaced with somber ones.
“Now sometimes be with them, when they are in hospital passed away, it’s been very challenging,” Pereira says.
Not to mention the statewide shutdown and eventual limit on gatherings at houses of worship.
All Saints Episcopal Church was forced to close its doors on March 15, 2020, along with all the other churches and businesses affected during the first stages of the pandemic.
“We closed the building, but we never closed,” Pereira says.
If parishioners couldn’t come to him, he was going to find a way to reach them, and he did, through technology and social media. The church at Washington Avenue and Valley View Boulevard became a base for a bigger outreach.
“Preaching through a camera, to no one in the building,” Pereira recalls. “But yeah, it was different without the spirituality of having everyone in the church, praying, singing, and now I was alone through a camera, to reach them.”
That proved to be a challenge at first, but it turned into an opportunity to expand his outreach.
“Before the pandemic, you just reach your community here in Las Vegas. Well, now you can reach the whole world. Even friends, family sharing the services in Italy, in Spain, in Venezuela, all over. They are part of community,” he says.
Pereira also serves on the board of the health department, spearheading efforts to get his community vaccinated.
“How he really stepped up to the plate, to not only offer his church as a vaccination site, but really to serve as that trusted faith leader to create awareness through social platforms,” says Ericka Aviles, owner of her own consulting business.
“Through media, through just the community and ensure that people felt it was safe to get vaccinated, or wherever they chose. It was really impactful to me, to have that support in him, to have him do that,” Avila says.
His work continues.
“It’s important to call the community to awareness,” Pereira says. “We’re not done yet with pandemic. It’s important to get vaccinated. Even being vaccinated, still have to keep some preventions.”
“It’s part of our faith. You have to believe in the doctors and the science, and follow that. And faith, keep your family safe … that’s when you show your real love,” Pereira says.