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Tree injures pastor in accident, wife dies of heart attack on same day

Members of First Baptist Church of Richburg, South Carolina, sobbed in shock after learning their pastor was badly injured and his wife had suffered a fatal heart attack on the same day.

Minutes after the church sang the lyrics to Charles A. Tindley’s “Leave It There” on Sunday morning, worship leader Johnnie Catoe delivered the news about the tragedy that struck their Pastor John Parris and his wife, Patsy Parris, a day earlier.

Catoe’s announcement, which was shared on the church’s Facebook page with the permission of the Parris family, shows just how devastated the congregation was on Sunday after hearing the news.

“It is with a heavy heart that we come to you this morning. Most of you have heard this morning, Pastor John was in a serious accident yesterday. He was helping cut a tree and things don’t always go as you planned if you’ve ever done tree work. … The tree fell on him,” he said.

Parris suffered multiple fractured ribs, two fractures in his pelvis, a broken arm and a skull laceration, according to the worship leader. On Saturday night, doctors provided him with treatment, including approximately 14 stitches in his head, and scheduled him to do multiple surgeries later.

“He woke up yesterday morning thinking everything was good. Going to help a friend, ‘cause that’s what we do. We help friends,” Catoe continued with his announcement, explaining that his story would continue with “a death in there” that most of the small congregation didn’t know about and it was “gonna come hard.”

“Ms. Patsy passed away last night,” he said as the congregation received the news with audible gasps, shocked questions of “What? What did he say?” until the shock crescendoed in sobbing.

“We wanted you to be here when you heard it, which is why you don’t do a phone tree about that sort of thing. Apparently, last night she had come home from the hospital, was at home, she had not felt good that day all day, was debating on going to the ER,” Catoe explained.

“Everything happened with John, she didn’t get a chance to get her … She came home, was relaxing in the bath trying to feel better. Allison [one of her two daughters] was there with her. And she told Allison, ‘I’ll be out the bathtub in a minute would you fix me some eggs,’” he continued.

Allison went to fix her mother some eggs and about 10 minutes later, she found her mother in the bathtub unresponsive. Catoe said they tried to do CPR but it didn’t work. She was declared dead a little before 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

“I don’t know how you handle that as a church except you pray to the one who is in control. Last night, before this happened, John was laying on his bed … saying, ‘God, we bring you glory out of all of this,’ and those were his words,” the worship leader said.

They were unable to break the news of his wife’s passing to Pastor Parris until Sunday morning. But as heartbroken as he was, said Catoe, he still prayed that God would bring glory out of the tragedy that has struck his family.

A GoFundMe campaign is seeking to raise $10,000 to help with Parris’ medical bills. The church has also launched a Facebook fundraiser to assist their pastor.

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