A prominent Richmond-area evangelical pastor died on the eve of Easter after contracting the novel coronavirus.

Bishop Gerald Glenn, 66, founder and leader since 1995 of the New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, was the first black chaplain of that community’s police department and was a police officer before becoming a pastor, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Sunday.

He was a friend and a pillar of the region’s faith community, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tweeted Sunday.

“My heart sinks as I learn this morning that Bishop Gerald Glenn, pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church, died yesterday from COVID-19,” Kaine said. “May all do as much for so many.”

Glenn preached in church about the virus in March, before he became sick, encouraging people not to be afraid. On March 22, five days after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had urged people to “avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people,” Glenn told his congregation that “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus,” according to a video played April 6 by Richmond station WTVR.

On March 23, Northam ordered nonessential businesses closed and banned all gatherings of more than 10 people.

Glenn’s wife, Mother Marcietia Glenn, was also diagnosed with covid-19, according to a YouTube post on Easter by Bryan Nevers, a church elder who also announced Glenn’s death Saturday night. All sermons were removed from the church’s YouTube channel Monday evening.

The New Deliverance community was left to wrestle with his death. They are part of the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal denomination hit hard by covid-19.

“We still believe in God for healing right now,” Nevers said on the Sunday video, his voice wavering, the rows of purple seats behind him empty in the church. “Our bishop always told us, even as they wheeled him into the operating room, he proclaimed that God is still a healer. … I don’t know how, but I have to say: God will get the glory from this.”

The April 6 WTVR report quoted Glenn’s daughter, identified as Mar-Gerie Crawley, as saying her father had been sick for about a week before he was hospitalized. She said he had diverticulitis — a digestive condition — and it wasn’t uncommon for him to get fevers and viruses. His wife took him for a second time to an emergency room in late March, Crawley said, once his breathing was labored and he was lethargic. He was tested for the coronavirus and immediately got a positive result.

She said her father’s encouraging, well-populated March 22 service was held “not to disrespect [officials] but to support those who were scared.” She said her parents were both very affectionate. “Mom and Dad are hugging [type] people. That’s what they do, they hug everyone.”

In a since-removed video on the church’s site, Glenn led the March 15 service, telling people in a lighthearted way not to shake hands.

“I’m glad to be in the Lord’s house. It didn’t have to be this way. The government could have said we couldn’t gather at all. Just imagine if the government had the authority to say, you and me, we can’t go to church. Aren’t you glad you were free to get up and come?”

In the video, he said 185 people had come to the morning service. He also noted that the virus had captivated the world and terrified people.

“You may never say this aloud, but you have to wonder: ‘Why did God let this happen?’ I’ve heard other questions by theologians, and I think it’s valid. Is this virus a sign of the end times? … It makes us look at our own immediate mortality.”

Earlier in the sermon, he said: “If I had to deliver my own eulogy, I’d say, ‘God is greater than any challenge you and I face.’ That would be my epitaph.”

Read more: