The devastating impact of coronavirus pandemic transcends all boundaries and the faith community is no exception. Since the end of March, several religious leaders in Los Angeles and across the nation have passed away due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Among the victims in the L.A. area is Bishop Anthony Pigee, Sr., the 49-year-old founder and senior pastor of Life of Faith Community Center, who died April 8, of complications from coronavirus. Known throughout the U.S. for his powerful preaching, Pigee was also lauded by his family and colleagues for his charitable and generous spirit towards others in need.
In a statement, his family said, “We bow our heads in humble submission to the perfect will of God as He has seen fit to transition Bishop Anthony Pigee, Sr… a giant of a husband, father, son, brother, pastor and preacher across this country and a blessing to so many.”
The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination has been especially hard hit by COVID-19, with a number of bishops and superintendents dying from the disease in the last month. The First Jurisdiction of Michigan alone lost seven leaders including Bishops Robert E. Smith, Sr. and Robert L. Harris, and Superintendents John D. Beverly, Paul E. Hester, Sr., Kevelin B. Jones, Myron E. Lett and Leon R. McPherson, Sr.
The passing of COGIC Bishop Timothy T. Scott, who died on April 3, especially saddened communities in the South. Scott, the pastor of St. James Temple Church of God in Christ in Clarksdale, was the presiding prelate of the Northern Mississippi Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction. He was also the longest serving jurisdictional prelate in the Church of God in Christ, according to The Christian Post.
“Bishop T. T. Scott is an icon of fatherly leadership, humble servitude, and unwavering faith,” said Bishop Robert G. Rudolph, Jr., adjutant general in the Church of God in Christ, in a statement.
The passing of Bishop Phillip A. Brooks, a legendary preacher, statesman and social activist in the area, similarly distressed residents in Detroit, Michigan. He passed away on April 9, at the age of 88.
In an April 10 story in The Detroit News, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., described Brooks as an “intellectual giant” for writing the manual for the training of COGIC leaders.
Brooks, who was also selected by Blake to serve as the denomination’s vice president, was known as a confidant to Coleman Young, Detroit’s first Black mayor, and the late recording artist, Aretha Franklin.
Knowing the deadliness of COVID-19, Blake has been providing clear directives for the members of the church since March 2020, said COGIC spokesman Robert Coleman.
“These directives have included the shutting down of the national headquarters and publishing house locations in Memphis, mandating that all other locations comply with local and state orders, cancelling all international events, establishing an informational call with the White House for pastors and leaders and canceling of four of the church’s upcoming major conferences and meetings,” explained Coleman.
In addition, Blake recently released a video to COGIC members where the presiding bishop stated, “I would like to take this opportunity to, once again, unequivocally state that all Church of God in Christ local, district, state, national and international gatherings should cease.
“Saints of God, let us please continue to do all we can to contribute to the flattening of this pandemic’s curve. I cannot stress the vital importance of doing so for the safety and well-being of all.”
Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, founder and pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, also came to that conclusion before he died from COVID-19 on April 11.
Initially, Glenn resisted his state’s social distancing recommendations and continued to hold in-person worship services despite the pandemic. In his last known in-person sermon on March 22, the New York Post reported that Glenn boasted about being “controversial” and “in violation” of state social distancing recommendations.
“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that,” he declared.
The next day, after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam prohibited gathering on more than 10 people, Glenn announced an indefinite suspension of services. He even reminded members to “be mindful” of the heightened risk that large gatherings could pose in the spread of the coronavirus, reported the HuffPost.
Glenn’s daughter, also advised people to adhere to social distancing recommendations. She told WTVR-TV, “I just beg people to understand the severity and the seriousness of this, because people are saying it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone around us.”