Coronavirus claims 3 more pastors; one may have exposed hundreds to disease at funeral

Coronavirus victims from (L-R): Bishop Timothy Titus Scott, Sr., of St. James Temple Church of God in Christ in Clarksdale, Miss.; Pastor Alvin Charles McElroy, of Friendship Baptist Church in Riverhead, N.Y.; and Father Gioacchino Basile, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, who had led Saint Gabriel Church in East Elmhurst, Queens. |

At least three more pastors have lost their lives to the new coronavirus in just over a week, leaving more churches across the nation mourning in the fallout from the pandemic.

Bishop Timothy Titus Scott, Sr., 88, of St. James Temple Church of God in Christ in Clarksdale, Mississippi; Pastor Alvin Charles McElroy, 79, of Friendship Baptist Church in Riverhead, New York; and Father Gioacchino Basile, 60, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, who had been leading Saint Gabriel Church in East Elmhurst, New York City, all died as a result of the coronavirus.

Scott, who died last Friday, had been the pastor of St. James Temple Church of God in Christ in Clarksdale since 1972, according to the city of Clarkdale's website. He also served as prelate of the Northern Mississippi Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ and prior to his death was the longest serving Jurisdictional Prelate in the Church Of God In Christ.

“Bishop T. T. Scott is an icon of fatherly leadership, humble servitude, and unwavering faith,” Bishop Robert G. Rudolph, Jr., adjutant general in the Church Of God In Christ, Inc., wrote in a statement on Scotts passing.

Both Scott and his wife tested positive for the virus after attending a funeral on March 7, WREG-TV reported. One of the attendees at the funeral from New Orleans had tested positive for the virus.

Prior to his diagnosis, Scott may have also unknowingly exposed about 300 people to the virus at a funeral held at his church on March 14, WREG-TV said. Due to restrictions on gatherings due to the ongoing pandemic, COGIC said they will wait until after the restrictions have been lifted to celebrate Scott’s life.

“During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulting in local and state restrictions on public gatherings to achieve social distancing, the Terry family will hold a private memorial service for this valiant soldier of the Gospel. When the restrictions are lifted, a date will be set for a Jurisdictional Memorial Service that will appropriately recognize the godly life and notable achievements of Bishop Timothy Titus Scott, Sr,” Rudolph wrote. “During this time of uncertainty, we request the continued prayers as well as acts of emotional and spiritual support for the family. It is with great honor that the National Adjutancy will assist the Scott family and the Northern Mississippi Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction during this most difficult time.”

Friendship Baptist Church member Bonnie Cannon told the Riverhead News-Review that Pastor McElroy, who died at the Peconic Bay Medical Center on March 26 after contracting the coronavirus, was a leader who practiced what he preached.

“He’d pour into you things that would help you live from week to week. How to have peace and joy even if you’re in a circumstance others would see as a bad situation. He wasn’t just preaching it, he lived it,” she said.

His wife, the Rev. Maryanne McElroy, remembered her husband as a man who loved his community.

“He was well-grounded,” she recalled. “He was very community minded. Most people just think a pastor shows up to preach on Sunday. It’s much more than that.”

Father Basile, whose death was announced by church officials on Saturday, is the second priest from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to die from the coronavirus in a week, the New York Post reported. A week earlier, Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, 49, who served at St. Brigid’s Church in Wyckoff Heights, died from the virus.

"Father Gioacchino Basile, a native of Calabria, Italy who died today, was small in stature, but mighty in energy for the Lord. Unfortunately, Father's underlying health conditions made it difficult for him to fight the virus. In addition to English and Italian, Father spoke Spanish fluently and ministered well to all of the people of his parish and the faithful of the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens," said the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn.

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