Five weeks ago, Brandon Barker stood before the members of Westwind Church and spoke about how the young congregation, remarkably, had not yet lost a member in its five years.
The lead pastor imagined what a death in the Waukee church’s family would feel like when it finally came.
But Sunday, at the first of two services in which Barker had to choke back tears, he admitted, “I had no idea how horrific that day would be.”
Last week, the church’s family pastor, DB Antrim, committed suicide.
Antrim, 40, a husband and a father of two boys, had worked with the church’s youth. Knowing they would have questions, Barker wanted the loss to be a “teachable moment” that could help grieving congregants come together in a time of confusion and tragedy. Antrim’s suicide would not be downplayed or covered up. Instead, it would “bring light” to the darkness of death.
Brent Minter, the church’s worship pastor, said that for a community, dealing directly with trauma is crucial.
“In true community, you have got to talk about it, and you have got to deal with it,” Minter said.
Antrim’s death was central to Sunday’s church services. Music selections recounted Jesus’ willingness to “wipe away tears.” A slide projected next to the stage in Waukee South Middle School, where Westwind meets, read “Dealing with Loss.”
“This is kind of a defining moment for our church,” Barker said during his sermon. “It is a defining moment that is going to be remembered by me for as long as I live.”
Congregants wept openly as Barker read aloud the suicide note Antrim had left for him, about how he’d been keeping from Barker the despair that ultimately ended his life.
It was an example, Barker said, of how not to shoulder one’s own burdens.
“You cannot hold on to these things,” he said. “We have to live in the open. We have to let people know what’s going on.”
Though suicide is considered a sin in this church, Barker said he believes Antrim has been forgiven.
For a relatively new congregation, the loss of a leader — Antrim worked there for 2½ years — is a sad but important milestone, Barker said.
“Our church is growing up,” he said. “We were babies, we were infantile, we were toddlers. You want to protect your kids from that focus on death. But there comes a time when you have to face certain truths about the grotesqueness of a fallen world.”
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SOURCE: The Des Moines Register