Word came to us at church yesterday (Thursday) that our dear friend Larry Goldman was taken from his place of employment with symptoms that sure sounded like a heart attack. I was relieved to catch up with him a couple hours later and discover that it was a case of vertigo.
I have now seen this happen to church people no less than at least a dozen times in my pastoral career. But there is one instance of it I’ll most remember forever.
It was the winter of 1994. I was a pastor in Phillipsburg, NJ and had recently established contact with this Evangelical Free Church in Hagerstown, MD. They appeared interested in my resume, as this fellow named Fred Craver called me to inform me of such. He said that two couples from the church were going to visit incognito at my church the next Sunday – a Paul and Karen Bitner and a Clarence and MaryAnn Brubaker.
I obviously wanted to do my best and make the best possible appearance toward getting the new job at this way cool church in Maryland! With only about 225-250 in attendance, I was pretty sure I saw who these visitors must be – as they sat about 2/3 of the way toward the back to my left side.
We had just finished the songs for the morning and the pianist had walked back to the 3rd row near the front to sit with her husband and college-aged son. Let me further describe the scene by saying that this lady was THE leading lady of the church in terms of leadership and involvement – and still is to this day. She is a frequent women’s conference guest speaker – known and loved by every person in the church.
Well, I was about 60 seconds into my introduction of my sermon on Psalm 42 when I noticed a great deal of commotion around where this lady and her family were sitting. I tried not to look too closely – not wanting to draw attention to whatever was going on over there. But before long, even I noticed that her husband and son each had one arm around her, and were literally dragging her down the side aisle – in the same way a football player would be dragged off the field after getting his bell rung.
By this time, everyone in the room had seen what was going on, there was a mild murmuring, medical people in the congregation were getting up and running out, and I just had to quit trying to pretend like nothing had transpired. Once they were outside the sanctuary doors and into the foyer, I said something like, “Obviously our dear friend Mary has been stricken in some fashion, so let’s pray for this situation even now.”
After the prayer, I attempted to go back to the sermon and make some sense of the passage, but by this point, I’d totally lost the room. Nobody was much listening; they were all lost in their own thoughts. I soldiered on through the sermon, but I also was depressed – figuring it was a total lost cause for getting to Maryland. But the funny thing was that my visitors thought I had handled a difficult situation fairly well, and it all played into my favor. And the rest is history!
As you can guess, the lady was diagnosed with vertigo due to a recent inner ear infection. I visited her later that day, and she was as good as new.