Church Is Shaken by Suicide after Pastor's Death, Flock Seeks Answers

Article excerpt

On the eve of their pastor's funeral, worshipers at Central Presbyterian Church were urged to use the Rev. Timothy Brewer's suicide to "bond us more closely together in a family of love."

"We are a family," the Rev. John D. Splinter, associate pastor of the church, told a standing-room-only gathering at one of three church services Sunday morning, "and we believe in God."

The Rev. Austin McCaskill Jr., also an associate pastor, said: "Suicide is a sin; suicide is not a solution.

"There are eternal consequences, but we have got to remember that, for us, there is always hope."

During the solemn, hourlong service, several people wiped tears from their eyes as they remembered the handsome 36-year-old pastor and father of three. Brewer's body was discovered Thursday afternoon inside his car parked in the garage of his West County home. Death was apparently caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

In a suicide note, Brewer said he had been fighting depression and despair after losing part of his left leg in a train accident earlier this year. Prescription anti-depressant drugs didn't stave off depression, he said. "I feel like a drowning man," he said.

McCaskill told worshipers that by killing himself, Brewer violated God's commandment of "Thou shalt not kill." As a result, he said, "we have to realize Tim chose to forfeit probably two-thirds of the reward he would have received" in heaven.

Still, McCaskill said, "when we who believe in God sin, we sin as children. God does not un-adopt us.

"Tim is with Jesus Christ."

Also Sunday, worshipers received an insert in their church bulletin, dealing with the issue of the sin of suicide. The insert includes a section called "thoughts to remember," which contains material on helping people deal with Brewer's death. Some of the headings: "It's OK to cry," "Don't indulge in self-condemnation" and "Forgive Tim and each other."

Between services on Sunday, church leaders continued to struggle with the question of why Brewer - beloved by his church family - would take his own life.

They described him as a man who seemed so thoroughly depressed in the suicide note that he had lost touch with reality.

"The words in his letter are the words of a sick man," said Vern Schneider, a church elder.

***** Questions About Prozac

Both Schneider and Elder Robert Fulstone speculated whether there was something else - perhaps prescription drugs - that had helped push him into the decision to kill himself. In his suicide note, Brewer said that a local psychiatrist had put him on Prozac, an anti-depressant drug.

But a local psychiatrist and psychologist said Sunday there is no chance that Prozac contributed to the suicide. …