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California megachurch pastor, 58, dies from COVID-19

A pastor at a California megachurch which continued to hold services throughout the pandemic has died from COVID-19 complications a week after being hospitalized. 

Bob Bryant, 58, a pastor at the Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, fell ill with coronavirus symptoms while on vacation, according to the Daily Bulletin. He tested positive, as did his wife and their son, on November 22. 

Bryant, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, became severely ill and was hospitalized within hours of his diagnosis. He suffered a heart attack and contracted pneumonia before passing away on Monday. 

The family claim they do not know where Bryant became infected and that he had always been careful because of his underlying health conditions.  

The megachurch, which continued to welcome hundreds to services despite the ever rising cases in California, has said it will continue to hold services with social distancing despite Bryant’s death.  

Bob Bryant, 58, a pastor at the Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, California, died from COVID-19 complications on Monday, a week after he was hospitalized

Pastor Bob Bryant's wife Lori announced his death on Instagram on Monday

Pastor Bob Bryant’s wife Lori announced his death on Instagram on Monday

He was a pastor at the megachurch Water of Life, which said that it will continue to hold services, as pictured above, despite the death of one of its pastors from coronavirus

He was a pastor at the megachurch Water of Life, which said that it will continue to hold services, as pictured above, despite the death of one of its pastors from coronavirus

Water of Life had initially shut its door during the first California lockdown before reopening to hold socially distanced indoor services at the end of May. 

The nondenominational church, which has a congregation of some 26,000, switched to outdoor services in accordance with state guidelines over the summer but returned to socially distance indoor services again on October 31. 

It generally welcomes 8,000 people during weekend services but has now been forced to reduce capacity as it continues to stream services online for those who feel uncomfortable attending. 

Its pastors had been among those leading the call for houses of worship to reopen in May with the church’s founder and senior pastor, Dan Carroll, insisting that congregants remain safe with social distancing and other health precautions. 

‘Here at Water of Life, we believe that God is bigger than the coronavirus,’ stated Carroll at the time, according to Fontana News.  

‘We also believe in taking the right precautions to ensure the safety and health of everyone who comes to our campuses. We want you to know about the steps we are taking to prevent the spread of germs.’  

Carroll confirmed Bryant’s death on a Facebook post. 

Bryant had been working with the church for 18 years after leaving his trucker job to become their youth pastor. 

He recently spearheaded a new project which asked the congregation to donate their stimulus checks to the more needy in the Fontana community. 

Water of Life in Fontana, California, has a congregation of 26,000 people

Water of Life in Fontana, California, has a congregation of 26,000 people

Bryant, pictured right with his wife Lori, was on vacation when he became ill, the church said

Bryant, pictured right with his wife Lori, was on vacation when he became ill, the church said

‘It is with heavy hearts that we share Pastor Bob Bryant passed earlier today from this life and found himself fully in the presence of Jesus,’ Carroll wrote to his church’s Facebook followers. 

‘So many of you have prayed and contended for his well-being and miraculous healing over the last week and a half.’ 

Carroll told NBC Los Angeles that the church community had experienced several deaths over the past few months but did not reveal if there were any current infections among the congregation. 

‘We’ve experienced several deaths at our church over the last eight or nine months so it’s been difficult but, yes, we try to protect ourselves and guard against COVID,’ he said. 

His wife Lori shared information throughout his illness on social media. She and friends gathered in the parking lot of the hospital where nurses put a heart on the window

His wife Lori shared information throughout his illness on social media. She and friends gathered in the parking lot of the hospital where nurses put a heart on the window

The heart marked the location of Bob Bryant's window in the hospital

The heart marked the location of Bob Bryant’s window in the hospital

His wife Lori stationed herself in the hospital parking lot despite her coronavirus diagnosis

His wife Lori stationed herself in the hospital parking lot despite her coronavirus diagnosis

Once Bryant became infected, his heath deteriorated rapidly as his wife and the church called for prayers. 

‘Bob got every symptom. He just started to get more and more symptoms,’ wife Lori Bryant told NBC. ‘Within three hours they were running me back to the back and they were putting Bob on a ventilator.’ 

She documented his illness on social media, posting images of the group of family and friends who had gathered outside of the window of the Kaiser Health hospital in Ontario. 

The Water of Life church held outdoor services during the summer

The Water of Life church held outdoor services during the summer

Lori remained stationed in the parking lot to wait, despite her own positive coronavirus test. 

She also posted images of the heart the nurses had placed on Bryant’s window so they would know his room. 

‘We were hoping he was turning for the good, but things went very bad very quickly today,’ she wrote as she revealed their diagnosis on November 24.  

‘He has bilateral aggressive Covid pneumonia, suffered a silent heart attack and is having some kidney issues. They had to put him on a ventilator immediately. He is critical but stable tonight in the Covid ICU. 

‘It really is the worst feeling to not be able to see your loved one in the hospital,’ she added. 

‘Even when he was having trouble breathing he said, “Tell everyone I love them and I’ll see them when I wake up”‘. 

Lori said that she demanded to be let inside to see her husband when she learned that he was going to die. 

‘I was able to be there with him,’ she said. ‘When it was over I was there.’

Bryant became a youth pastor 18 years ago after giving up his job as a trucker

Bob Bryant

Bryant became a youth pastor 18 years ago after giving up his job as a trucker

Lori and Bob, pictured, were both members of the Water of Life congregation

Lori and Bob, pictured, were both members of the Water of Life congregation

Bob Bryant, 58, a pastor at the Water of Life Community Church in Fontana, California, died from COVID-19 complications on Monday, a week after he was hospitalized

Lori and Bob both tested positive for coronavirus on November 22 but Lori had no symptoms

Lori urged others to stay safe as coronavirus cases continue to rise dramatically in the area. 

‘Bob just turned 58… I’m 57. Nobody thinks they’re going to be a widow at 57,’ Lori told CBS Los Angeles

‘We have four little grandchildren who adore him. Bob was a wonderful husband but he was a stellar grandfather.

‘Bob is very very safe because he had some issues with his health so he’s been very very safe and it could be you.’ 

Lori and her son have now tested negative for coronavirus.  

Hospitalizations in San Bernardino County have risen dramatically in the past week, increasing by 50 percent as doctors warn that ICU units could become overwhelmed. 

The county has 94,106 confirmed cases and 1,129 deaths. Its current risk level describes the virus as widespread. 

Of these cases, 12,500 are in Fontana, which has also had 116 coronavirus deaths. 

California broke the record on coronavirus hospitalizations for the third day in a row on Monday with 8,240 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

More than 1.24 million people in the state have been infected and more than 19,300 have died as the situation continues to deteriorate. 

A memorial for Bryant will be streamed online on December 7. 


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