Greeting people after the 11:00 worship service was a 25 year old routine for me as pastor of a United Methodist Church. But what happened that Sunday morning changed my whole life and my families’ life. As he was leaving one man was particularly angry at me. He said ugly words which I do not know remember, out of shock I suppose. I do remember his response when I asked him what was wrong. He just said, “Read my email!”.
At some point I realized my heart was racing, I was breaking out in a cold sweat and my chest was tightening and and beginning to hurt. It was only a month later I realized I was having a panic attack.
During my 25 years serving churches I had often faced hostility of all kinds, even death threats and now I was experiencing the toll all that had taken on me.
Now I am on disability and though I dearly love and still feel called to be a pastor, I know I can never do it again. It is not weakness nor is it denying my God given call. It is recognition of the fact that, like Jesus, I had come to the place where I was no longer able to carry the cross that I was still willing to carry.