Pastor Teddy Parker Jr. of Bibb Mount Zion Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., told his wife and two kids to go ahead of him to church this past Sunday morning and that he would meet them there. So off they went, joining the other 800 members of his congregation.
Time passed, and the preacher, who once confessed to his flock that sometimes "I don't feel like God is hearing me," didn't show up to deliver God's word.
A few hours later, his wife, Larrincecia Parker, 38, found the reverend dead in the driveway of their home from a "self-inflicted gunshot wound," the Christian Post reports.
That's what Greg Warner called the affliction of pastoring in pain in a 2009 piece about a pastor who committed suicide in his parked car. "Being a pastor—a high-profile, high-stress job with nearly impossible expectations for success—can send one down the road to depression, according to pastoral counselors," Warner wrote.
The black church and suicide—two worlds diametrically opposed—were brought together that fateful Sunday morning in Georgia. One teaches faith and the power of belief, while the other is shrouded in darkness, a definitive end. If the church ideology is that joy comes in the morning, for those who commit suicide, that morning never comes.
As with most lives cut short before their time, there are questions, tough questions, that don't have answers.
Is it possible for a pastor to let some of his secular ills pour out from his pulpit? Can a spiritual leader seek guidance from those he has been commanded to lead? Is the weight of shepherding souls too heavy a burden?
Russell Rowland, a member of the church, told the Christian Post, "Everybody is just kind of stunned right now. I think a lot of people are just trying to understand why that happened. We're just praying to the Lord for guidance on this."
The unfairly written rule is this: Under no circumstances are pastors supposed to kill themselves. They are not supposed to succumb to the pressures of the world. The heaviness of life is supposed to be majestically lifted from them because they are closer to the all-seeing and all-knowing alpha and omega. They have a direct connection to God.
Parker allowed his congregation behind his curtain when he exposed some of his stress during a sermon posted on YouTube called "Facing Your Storm With Confidence."
"You know a lot of times, we feel like, when we are going through stuff and it's a lot, that there's nobody there with us," he preached. "And guess what? God intends for you to feel that way. I know y'all been saved a long time. I know you super spiritual and you know you real holy, but there are times in your life, not y'all, but me. There are times in my life when I'm going through some stuff where I can't feel God there.
"I try to pray, but I don't feel like God is hearing me," he confessed. "I try to serve, but I don't feel like God is using me. And there are times in your life when God purposely withdraws from you. He doesn't withdraw for the sake of leaving you, but he withdraws so you can grow and mature."
In the end, one family has lost a brother and a son, another a husband and a father. And a church family has lost its leader, but according to Rowland, the members will not lose their way.
"I still believe in my faith. I still believe in God. I still believe in all his [Parker's] teachings," he told the Christian Post. "I believe in what pastor Parker has been teaching me. As I said, that's one of the reasons I am a member of that church, because of him, and nothing has changed. I'm just in awe right now, and I'm wondering what happened to him. I can't say, you know. I guess it's between him and the Lord. All I can do is pray."
Read more at the Christian Post.