Two religious leaders from the same church in Wolverhampton have died 24 hours apart after contracting coronavirus.
Reverend Bishop Theophilus Augustus McCalla MBE, 86 – who had underlying health conditions, including diabetes – died in hospital on Thursday after contracting COVID-19.
Rev McCalla, who was a prominent figure in the Church Of God Of Prophecy, founded the Nehemiah United Churches Housing Association in 1989.
The organisation provides housing and accommodation for people from the Afro-Caribbean community.
Another leader from the same congregation, Reverend Bishop Horatio Fearon, who was in his 80s, died the day before – on Wednesday.
Sky News understands that up to ten members, including senior ministers from the same denomination – which has several congregations across the UK – have also died in recent weeks.
Speaking anonymously, a churchgoer who knew both leaders said they are concerned a significant number of other worshippers may die following the pandemic.
They said: “The virus seems to have affected several in our community.
“Some have died, others are still struggling with it.
“Our small church community will not be the same when the outbreak ends because some of our key leaders, who meant so much to us, have gone.
“We continue to pray, and trust God for recovery of those who are sick, and may the dead rest in eternal peace.”
The Church Of God Of Prophecy has between 60 and 70 congregations across the UK.
The church held a regional convention in March before social distancing measures were introduced at the Aberdeen Street site in Birmingham.
Both reverends attended the services alongside hundreds of other members.
A spokesperson for the Church Of God Of Prophecy said that following the gathering, a meeting was held – and the decision was taken to suspend public and private worship services across all branches.
“We don’t know what is behind the outbreak. We also had a series of other events. But I want to say, where there are people falling ill we are offering prayers and support,” said Bishop Llewellyn Graham.
“Those who are suffering and have lost loved ones, we are helping them as much as we can.”
Sky News has learned of the death of pastor Fabian Anderson, who also attended the Church Of God Of Prophecy.
Mr Anderson – who was his 60s and had pre-existing health issues, was treated at the Queen Elizabeth hospital two weeks ago.
His death is being linked to COVID-19.
Mr Anderson’s wife, who tested positive for the virus, has since recovered.
The church’s administrator who managed all the branches across the country has also died, as have two other members of the congregation.
A cousin of Reverend Bishop McCalla, who is a minister, is self-isolating having contracted the disease.
“These guys did not know what was happening until it was too late. I don’t think the government guidelines were out there before this convention was held,” – said another church member who wanted to remain anonymous.
“I wonder how many more will also die?”
Bishop Llewellyn Graham insists the church is “fully aware of what is happening and is working to support families”.
He added: “Our condolences to both bishops and other members who have sadly passed away.”