I’ve said elsewhere that all preachers are not created equal.
There are the exceptional ones whose improvisational-like delivery is so attention-grabbing that you find yourself being swept along to the altar call.
There are the fairly decent ones who pepper their sermons with anecdotes and real-life comparisons that don’t make you regret the decision you made that morning.
There are the ones who answered the wrong call and are busy reading their words from the pulpit, holding on for dear life to the papers on which they’re written.
And lastly are those preachers who forgot to look over their sermon the previous night before coming to church that morning.
So sometimes, one doesn’t mind when there’s a little excitement to brighten the morning.
I remember once, sitting in church – the sermon already well underway – when I heard a distinct thud. Not long after I saw a flood of activity in a particular area of the church. An elderly woman had fainted.
Given her age, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who initially wondered if the worse had happened. The people sitting closest to her began to fan her. People in the pew where she’d been sitting got up so that she could be made to lie down.
Congregants from the upstairs balconies got up from their seats and peered down at the unfolding scene. Members of the congregation who were medical doctors rushed to her aid. The woman eventually came to and was whisked away in the ambulance that had been called to come get her.
I can’t remember where the preacher was in all of this, but after the excitement had died down I recall wishing that I had gone with her.
After that incident I can recollect one or two other fainting episodes. By then, they followed a particular pattern. Sometimes you wouldn’t hear anything but you would see the flurry of activity, seat mates would proceed to fan the person and loosen any tight clothing.
Someone might run to the vestry for some water. Myriad people would make a beeline for the affected person, any and all doctors in the house would make their way to the person who would be hustled out of church where someone would either take her home or to the hospital. Nobody called the ambulance anymore.
Even preachers themselves aren’t immune from providing a little entertainment.
One Sunday, as most members of the congregation were in various states of repose, there was a break in the preacher’s verbal stride. Most weren’t paying attention, but one person noticed the void, assumed that he was pausing for effect and urged him on with an encouraging shout.
But one eagle eyed member recalled seeing the thin sliver of spit that hung from his lips seconds before he collapsed.
Pandemonium broke out as members of the choir, the encourager, the sexton, the stewards, the lay preachers, the Sunday school teachers and of course the doctors all crowded the pulpit blocking out the much-needed air. The rest of the congregation sat paralyzed in their seats leaving the ones who could move to send some prayers up to heaven.
The preacher was taken to the hospital by the ambulance which was followed by a phalanx of other vehicles. The service became a prayer meeting but before it ended, one of the persons who left with the ambulance came back to report that the preacher was doing fine, and that our prayers had been answered.
These instances of falling into unconsciousness seem to happen even more frequently at funerals where, between the heat and the emotion it’s easy to be “overcome”. This phenomenon has even happened to some heads of state – which makes it all the more embarrassing.
The last funeral that my husband attended had one of these instances of a person “falling out”. This time, not only was the person fanned by the people sitting next to him in the pew, but people both in front and behind him were using their church programmes to get as much air to him as possible too.
A leading pediatrician came forward to assist but she was elbowed out of the way as other attendees tried to help. He was divested of his jacket and they more than likely loosened his tie and a few buttons in the process. By then, he had regained consciousness, and attention was soon redirected to where it properly belonged.
On the preacher, of course.