Pastor Drops Dead at Pulpit During Sunday Sermon Shortly After Singing Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ Song
By Leonardo Blair | CP Reporter
Just over a week ago at a celebration of his 60th birthday, Pastor Gordon A. Humphrey Jr. of United Ministries bellowed melodiously from the pulpit that “the Lord is good to me…You healed my body, You brought me back from death” as a choir harmoniously affirmed his lilting declarations.
On Sunday, the preacher who loved to sing was at it again.
Shortly before he began preaching a Christmas-themed message about “hope in the manger” at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago he sauntered through the lyrics of rapper Pharrell Williams’ runaway hit song “Happy”.
Soon after he began preaching his message of hope, however, or perhaps it was somewhere in the middle according to Pastor Greg Hunter, Humphrey dropped dead at the pulpit.
“I’m not sure if they determined the cause of death but it’s been said he may have had a heart attack,” said Hunter whom Humphrey recently installed as pastor of Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland, California after pastoring there for more than 30 years.
Humphrey was serving as senior pastor of 3 churches at the time of his death: Olivet Church in Oakland, California; Olivet Church in Stockton, California, and the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, which his father, Gordon Humphrey, Sr. had pastored for some 40 years before his passing forced Humphrey Jr. to relocate there a few years ago.
Congregants tried frantically, but in the end their efforts proved futile, to revive their spiritual leader.
“They did call paramedics right away. They had people in the church that are in the medical field working on him as well and he was taken to the hospital. Every location was devastated. Stockton, Oakland, Shiloh, everybody was devastated,” said Hunter who wants his mentor to be remembered for doing what he loved and doing it well.
“We are putting emphasis that he passed doing what he loved to do and he loved preaching and that’s the relationship he had with God and when he preached he gave it his all. So he passed doing the thing that he loved to do and that is [to] share the word of God and minister to the body of Christ,” explained Hunter.
“For years he walked the streets and met with drug addicts and gangbangers that was against each other and [made them] begin to love. He brought all people together,” Hunter added. Humphrey was a person that “everybody liked”.
Bishop Victor S. Couzens, pastor of Inspirational Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio remembered Humphrey as an affable preacher with a passion for urban ministry.
“He was always a very kind guy. He was just as good a friend and brother as he was a preacher and pastor. Someone that you could very easily relate to. His brand or his message if you will has a very urban appeal to it which I always commended him for that,” said Couzens.
“He was a very relevant preacher…humble down to earth and we are certainly all saddened by his death,” he added.
Couzens, however, believes that preachers should also make Humphrey’s death a cautionary tale. While admitting he doesn’t know the cause of death yet, he said Humphrey’s passing should be a reminder to pastors that they should take better care of their bodies. Humphrey appeared to struggle with obesity.
“One of the things that it says is that particularly those whose bodies undergo a lot of strenuous activity, because preaching is very strenuous. You have to be more diligent about making sure that we are conscious of our health. It’s so important that we take the best possible care of ourselves physically as we can,” said Couzens.
Pointing out that he was aware of a number of pastors who have died at the pulpit over the years, he said, “I think that his death certainly reminds us that it’s important that we take care of ourselves in every possible way.”
“We’ve seen a lot of that over the last several years. We’ve seen several preachers, if you will, basically succumbing to death at the pulpit for one reason or another,” said Couzens.
“I don’t know how he was feeling in his body or anything of that nature but it’s important that we listen to our bodies. It’s important that we rest, it’s important that our congregations and the people that we serve support our need for rest, support our need to be in good health and it’s important that they and we invest in our health,” he ended.
In defense of his pastor’s efforts at pursuing a healthy lifestyle, Hunter said he wasn’t under the impression that Humphrey was working too hard running three churches or sacrificing his health.
“I’m not a medical doctor but I can say he was eating healthy and you know the types of lifestyle change you have to make. I know his theme in life was to be whole, be happy in his health, be happy in his life and he was working towards being healthy in mind body and spirit,” he said.
As for Humphrey’s Chicago church, Pharrell’s “Happy” song will never be the same again.
“To My Shiloh family this song will never be the same when I hear it played. I posted this song in honor of our Pastor. It was Pastor’s last request to have the words to Pharrell’s song Happy. RIP Pastor,” the church noted on its Facebook page Tuesday.