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A Year of Loss Claimed Many Faith Leaders



Last Sunday marked one year since New York State’s first known fatality from COVID-19 were reported. Since then, according to Mayor Bill DeBlasio, the total number of deaths amount to “more than the city lost in World War II, Sept. 11 and Superstorm Sandy” combined.
Sad words , somber music, images and speeches marked the day. Images of New Yorkers felled by COVID-19 were projected virtually through Zoomed and Live events, and on the Brooklyn Bridge. The names were flashed on an art installation across from the Brooklyn Borough Hall.
But, for us, there was a poignancy in two special memorializations early on in 2020: the gathering of faith leaders and funeral leaders by Borough Hall President Eric Adams to commemorate sister and fellow faith leaders who had passed from coronavirus. The other was The Christian Times journalist Djoser Chase Dillon stories commencing in April memorialization in April of 2020, a few short weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID 19 a global pandemic. Reprinted below are Mr. Dillon’s May 2020 words in the continuing series.

Dr. Gwen Dingle, Pentecostal House of Prayer in Brooklyn (Brooklyn, NY)
A beloved pastor and community figure, Pastor Dingle was known for her bright personality and powerful voice. She had a very successful tenure in radio working with the likes of Bobby Jones and BET. A leader and protective presence in the community who pastored the Pentecostal House of Prayer in Brooklyn, she fought hard for what she believed in. She was born in Brooklyn NY, in 1950 and died in her hometown on April 21 from the coronavirus. She was 70 years old.

Min. Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, Nation of Islam (Harlem, NY)
Min. Muhammad was the leader of the Eastern Regional Headquarters of the Nation of Islam and the New York representative of Minister Louis Farrakhan. The founder and CEO of the Center for Self-Improvement, Inc., he was involved with numerous efforts to bring peace in the community as well as understanding among other religious groups in New York and nationwide. He was born in September of 1963 and passed away on April 11 at the age of 56 due to COVID.

Father Lawrence Lucas, Retired Catholic priest (Harlem, NY)
A Catholic priest, author, human rights and civil rights activist, social justice activist, and educator, Father Lucas was a vocal part of his Harlem community. In the 1970s, he became the first African-American pastor of Harlem’s Chapel of the Resurrection Roman Catholic Church, where he served for over 24 years. He was a co-founding member of the December 12th Movement, and advocated for Black priests to have decision making within Black communities, and for prison reform and justice for Black and Latino incarceration. He was born in Harlem In 1933 and succumbed to the coronavirus on April 18 at the age of 86.

By Djoser Chase Dillon,
The New York Christian Times – May 23, 2020

Hailey Herrera was a promising therapist with a God-given gift for helping others and giving good advice. Only 25 years old, she was working on her Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling when she caught the virus while seeing patients as an intern. Her mother used to call her “Dear Abby” because everyone would come to her for advice. Ms. Herrera died on April 7.
Detective Cedric Dixon served with the New York Police Department. He was assigned to Harlem’s 32nd Precinct in Manhattan North and was the first uniformed officer in the NYPD to succumb to the coronavirus.
Lila Althea Fenwick always knew that she was going to become a lawyer and she never saw obstacles growing up in harlem. Her parents migrated from Trinidad and were successful landlords, owning several properties in Harlem. Fendwick went on to study at Harvard Law School, the first Black woman and one of the first women to graduate. At her graduation in 1956, she was one of less than a dozen women in her class of several hundred. She paved the way for women like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg, who started at the school the year after Fenwick graduated. Attorney Fenwick had a splendid career as a human rights leader at the United Nations. She died on April 4 of complications related to COVID-19 at the age of 87.
On March 9, Zororo Makamba, a popular TV host, returned home to Zimbabwe after an 8-day visit to New York. He reported flu-like symptoms and developed a fever. Three days after he was diagnosed with the coronavirus, Makamba – son of Zimbabwe’s wealthy media mogul James Makamba – died in a Harare hospital on March 23. The graduate of Michigan State University and New York Film Academy was 30 years old.
The coronavirus is taking lives beyond our ability to fathom and without regard for age, race, geography or status. Rich and poor are dying, and class and pedigree provide no blockage against this deadly plague. In most cases, the discriminating factor is hospital care and who has access to ventilators and those who do not. This impact is being felt all across the globe and in our local communities. Numbered among those we have lost are actors, writers, politicians, bankers, physicians and nurses, police, developers, journalists, historians, animators, engineers, architects, producers, war heroes, lawyers, musicians, educators, drivers – a seemingly unstoppable list of men and women.
Clergy and faith leaders that are true to their divine calling are almost always on the frontline. They engage their congregations in worship to the Creator and are present at birth and death for the communities they serve. In times of rejoicing, they are there – and in times of sickness, difficulties and death, these men and women are present to give comfort, encourage healing, validate successes, challenge growth, and then, sometimes, just to show presence! The number of clergy ranks high among those we have lost.
The Christian Times expresses condolences and sympathy to the families of all those who have experienced loss during this coronavirus season, including the men and women who lead in faith.
Unfortunately, the list continues each week …
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