Tributes paid to well-known Wolverhampton bishops after deaths 24 hours apart

Tributes have been paid to two long-serving Wolverhampton bishops who died within 24 hours of each other after contracting coronavirus.

Bishop Theophilus McCalla of the Church of God of Prophecy was awarded an MBE in 2008
Bishop Theophilus McCalla of the Church of God of Prophecy was awarded an MBE in 2008

Bishop Theophilus Augustus McCalla MBE, aged 86, die in hospital on Thursday and Bishop Horatio Fearon, aged in his 80s, died on Wednesday. Both had underlying health conditions.

They had been suffering from coronavirus for two weeks since attending a convention at Aberdeen St Church of God of Prophecy in Birmingham before the UK lockdown was implemented.

They were prominent figures in the Church Of God Of Prophecy, which they were founding members of in the West Midlands in the 1950s and 60s. Its Wolverhampton church is in Gloucester Street, Whitmore Reans.

The Church of God of Prophecy, Gloucester Street, Wolverhampton

The bishops both moved to the UK from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation.

Professor Doreen McCalla, Bishop McCalla's niece, said her uncle was "incredibly kind and caring" and had known is health was failing for some time.

He had served the church since he was aged 17 and was honoured for his devoted service with an MBE in 2008.

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"He is one of a kind and very unique there is no one quite like him," Professor McCalla said.

"He felt a call of God and was driven by that and his commitment to the community."

His service to the church took him to Africa, where he worked in Nigeria and Ghana building communities, schools and preaching as the overseer for more than 35 years.

Bishop McCalla receives his MBE from the Queen

He also founded the Nehemiah United Churches Housing Association in 1989, which provides housing and accommodation for people from the Afro-Caribbean community. Reirement housing scheme McCalla House in Laburnum Street, Graiseley, is named after him.

Professor McCalla added: "He was a phenomenal fundraiser, he raised millions for social justice, social action and educational projects in England, America, Jamaica and Africa. His life was devoted to helping communities, and not just those in the church, he touched the lives of people from all faiths and races, he believed he was put on the Earth for a purpose, for other people and to serve. He loved his work, it was his passion.

"If someone couldn't afford a wedding or funeral themselves, he would fundraise for them to have one, and make sure it was a decent one. After officiating a marriage, he would take off his robes and go into the kitchen and start cooking and lead the team. He was a leader and lead through example."

Bishop McCalla

Bishop Fearon was Pastor of Jubilee Christian Centre between 1978 and 1982.

Professor McCalla said:"Bishop Fearon was always an incredibly a kind and caring man who was always very supportive of me. He became the overseer in Bristol and did a magnificent job there before he returned to Wolverhampton where he continued preaching at Gloucester Street until he officially retired, but he carried on preaching and his community work afterwards."

Professor McCalla added: "When I visited my uncle in hospital some months ago, he said that he was ready to go to heaven as his health was now failing and thus there was not much more significant things he could do in the world.

"However, he wanted to be sure that everything was left in order in Africa and people to continue the work before he left so he spent his remaining time instructing his leaders in Ghana and Nigeria where he was the Overseer for more than 35 years. He was a wonderful person and will be greatly missed, but he won't be replaced."

It has been reported that up to 10 members of the denomination, which has congregations across the Midlands, have also died in recent weeks.

As of Saturday 92 people had been confirmed to have died in Wolverhampton after testing positive for Covid-19, with the Midlands death toll second only to London in the UK.

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