Heaven's gate: Timing is everything

When I first received a forward of this story, I thought for a second that it might be an urban legend. But no, it does seem to have been posted by the Associated Press. I have not seen it in any Florida media, however, and that surprises me. Rather than critique this simple story, let's just read the heart of it.

OVIEDO, Fla. (AP) -- A Presbyterian minister collapsed and died in mid-sentence of a sermon after saying "And when I go to heaven . . . ," his colleague said Monday.

The Rev. Jack Arnold, 69, was nearing the end of his sermon Sunday at Covenant Presbyterian Church in this Orlando suburb when he grabbed the podium before falling to the floor, said the Rev. Michael S. Beates, associate pastor at Covenant Presbyterian.

Before collapsing, Arnold quoted the 18th century Bible scholar, John Wesley, who said, "Until my work on this earth is done, I am immortal. But when my work for Christ is done . . . I go to be with Jesus," Beates said in a telephone interview.

Several members of the congregation with medical backgrounds tried to revive the minister and paramedics were called, but Arnold appeared to die instantly, Beates said.

Arnold had been the senior minister at the church until the late 1990s when he began traveling to Africa and the Middle East to teach pastors. The cause of death was believed to be cardiac arrest. He had bypass surgery five years earlier.

I have not been able to find a version that is much longer than this. I share it simply to ask this question: Is this a news story?

I guess over at Beliefnet this might lead to an interesting thread, asking readers how they would like to die, if they could choose the time and the place. From interviews, I know that friends of the Rev. Billy Graham have always said they thought he would like to die in the pulpit. If you ask Graham, he says such matters are up to God.

But, to repeat the question: Is this a news story? Human interest? Or is this the opening anecdote for a much bigger story, one that cuts into some thoughts and dreams and fears that people may not want to talk about? Just asking. And thinking.

UPDATED: A statement from the congregation involved, Covenant Presbyterian, can be found here with links to a Orlando coverage, etc.

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