Logan Heights

Black San Diego Church Devastated After Two Pastors Die From COVID-19

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Tucked away in a busy neighborhood in the northernmost part of Logan Heights you’ll find Bethel AME Church.

It’s one of San Diego’s oldest churches, build to serve the Black community over 130 years ago.

But like many communities of faith, Bethel AME congregants also had to pay a heavy price when COVID-19 struck their sacred haven.

"We've lost some long-term members that have been members of this community and our congregation for years,” said Harvey Vaugh, lead pastor at Bethel AME Church.

Vaughn says the church also lost two pastors to COVID-19. 

“One of the ministers had been a long-term educator and counselor at the high school system at Lincoln,” said Vaughn.

Reverand Ja'nice Winston had served Bethel AME Church as an associate minister since 2007. She died of complications resulting from COVID-19 on January 15. 

“The second gentleman was Reverend Keith Williams,"  said Vaughn.

Williams, a Logan Heights native had grown up going to Bethel AME Church. He became a part of the church’s clergy about three years ago. He passed away with COVID-19 in May.

“It's very serious it's a serious concern,”  said Vaughn. “It's a health concern.”

In San Diego County, more than half of Black San Diegans remain unvaccinated

More than half of Black San Diegans remain hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. NBC 7's Amber Frias reports.

“I think one of the main reasons that are because people are believing some of the false information that is out there,” said Vaughn. “And you also have people who legitimately are concerned about how African Americans have been treated in the past.”

In an effort to protect his community, Pastor Vaughn says he has taken it upon himself to not only educate his congregation on the COVID-19 vaccine but make sure they have access to it. 

“We generally have a covid update that goes out,”  said Vaughn. “And an announcement, it's a videotaped information that we do, it's every other week."

The church has also partnered with Sharp Healthcare and local non-profits to host free vaccine clinics.

“I’m going to continue to tell people and make vaccines available as often as we can, I will not be satisfied until we get as many people vaccinated “

A vow of dedication to his community.

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