Baptists around the world have been impacted by coronavirus as it upended in-person worship services, impacted local economies, and increased ministry needs. But the virus has also infected Baptists in various countries, including recent tragedies in Germany and Cameroon.
As of June 2, more than 6.4 million people globally have been infected with the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, and more than 380,000 have died. In Cameroon, more than 6,000 have tested positive and about 200 have died. In Germany, more than 184,000 people have tested positive, and more than 8,000 have died.
In the west African nation of Cameroon, Ngaka Epounde Frédéric, president of the Union des Eglises Baptistes du Cameroun (Union of Baptist Churches in Cameroon), passed away from COVID-19 on May 17.
“People of God, it is with sadness and pain that we announce the passing of the President General of the UEBC, the Rev. Ngaka Epounde Frédéric, this day,” the Union wrote on its Facebook page.
Frédéric, 61, was elected president of the Union in January 2019. He previously served as a pastor, president of a local convention, and vice president of the national Union. According to the Baptist World Alliance, the Union has more than 500 churches and about 80,000 members.
Prior to his death, Frédéric urged Baptists in Cameroon and elsewhere to “keep faith in a better tomorrow.” And he encouraged churches to keep ministering and studying the Bible even as gatherings of more than 50 were banned due to coronavirus.
“In these times of health crisis in the world in general and in Cameroon in particular due to the COVID-19, may our hearts not be disturbed, let us remain confident in our Lord,” he wrote on the Union’s Facebook page on April 29. “Our God is strong and love, he will take us out of this turmoil. May a thousand fall to our left and ten thousand to our right, let us not be shaken. Let’s just be disciplined respecting the hygiene measures recommended by the WHO and the government of our country, and this is how we are going to block the voice of this virus sowing chaos on the whole earth.”
Other Baptist leaders have also been afflicted with COVID-19, like Oliveira Socrates, executive director of the Convenção Batista Brasileira (Brazilian Baptist Convention). Although he recovered, numerous Baptist pastors have died from the virus.
Additionally, many churches have been directly impacted by coronavirus. A Baptist church in Frankfurt, Germany, saw an outbreak hit their community in May. The church resumed in-person services in early May after suspending them in March. Despite following rules about social distancing and using disinfectants, more than 100 people were infected, including congregational leaders, after a May 10 service — though some of the infected might not have attended the service but were exposed by those who did attend.
“It is a very difficult situation for us,” said Vladimir Pritzkau, one of the congregation’s leaders. “We have canceled all meetings. Services are now only available online.”
The church apologized for not asking congregants to wear masks and for allowing congregational singing that many health officials believe can increase the distance the virus can travel in the air. They expressed their “dismay and sadness” at the outbreak and acknowledged they should’ve “renounced” congregational singing for now. But they also expressed thanks that “many are on a good path of recovery and some are well again.”
Baptists and others in Germany moved services online in March as the government issued mass gathering restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus. Baptists there quickly adapted their worship and ministry. According to the Baptist World Alliance, the union in Germany includes 802 churches with just over 82,000 members.
Several Baptist churches in the U.S. have seen similar outbreaks after services, including one in Georgia that again suspended services in May just 16 days after reopening. And Baptists in Belarus are facing an outbreak in their eldercare home.