Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Minister continues preaching from his wheelchair

Gary Fannon

When many churches in America continue to be inaccessible, it's good to read about someone who is continuing his ministry after becoming a wheelchair user. It can go a long way to making parishioners aware of accessibility issues.

After a hunting accident left Gary Fannon, 44, as a wheelchair user, he said he questioned whether he should continue his calling as a Baptist minister in Diboll, Texas, but decided he should and he returned to preach at First Baptist Church Easter Sunday.

"While he preaches from a wheelchair now instead of standing behind a pulpit, he said the preaching is no different," The Baptist Standard reports.

He admits the questions he had right after he was injured: “During my rehab, I was trying to figure out if God had redirected my calling—if he was moving into a different path of ministry. I think it’s probably typical when you lose your mobility to question if you can go on and do the things we need to do. But today, compared to six months ago, it’s like night and day. Six months ago, I couldn’t roll over. I couldn’t move.”

But a conversation with another minister gave him the answers he needed, he said.

“I shared with him that I was thinking it might not be fair to the church to stay on as pastor. He pulled his chair up close to me and looked me right in the eye and asked: ‘What can you not do from that chair that you could do standing up? You’ve been called of God to be an example before God’s people and deliver the message he’s given you to deliver. Can you still do that?’ That was a big affirmation to my ministry,” Fannon said.

He says being disabled may even make him a better pastor.

“Pastors, we preach about faith all the time, but often our lives are so insulated, we don’t really have to live it, but now I have to live it every day. When I talk about enduring and persevering, I’m talking to me, too,” he explained.

And persevering he is. He has yet to receive an accessible van, so he rolls the 1.2 miles each way from his home to the church each day.