Saturday, November 22, 1997
Memorial Overflows for Beloved Pastor
NAHEIM--Ginny White expected to cry during the memorial service Friday
night for her deceased pastor, the Rev. John Richard Wimber. But the
tears started flowing before she even entered the landmark Vineyard
Christian Fellowship Church.
"I was driving in and all, saw all these hundreds of cars parked everywhere--on the playground, on the blacktop--and I just lost it," said White, a 45-year-old Riverside homemaker. "It such a tribute to how much he was loved, how much he inspired people."
White and thousands of mourners came by minivan, motorcycle and even baby stroller to pay their respects to a man known world-wide as a dynamic leader and caring pastor.
Wimber, who died Monday at the age of 63 after suffering a brain hemorrhage, is credited with helping unite seven Orange County churches into an international congregation of 150,000 members--making it one of the fastest-growing Christian denominations.
The Vineyard Christian Fellowship now has 450 congregations in the United States and more than 200 in foreign countries.
At the memorial service, close friends and family members described the smiling, white-bearded pastor as a generous and inspirational figure that often made light of his many accomplishments.
"He referred to himself as just a fat guy with freckles trying to get into heaven," said Todd Hunter, a longtime associate and acting national director of the Assn. of Vineyard Churches USA. "Well, he's there now."
Lance Pittluck, senior pastor at the Anaheim church, said Wimber's success never went to his head. "He taught all around the world, but he'd always say, 'I want to be a better preacher' and 'One day, I'll be good at this,' " Pittluck said.
He and other speakers at the memorial service attributed Wimber's success to his keen understanding of both spirituality and the real world. "I never met a man who was so spiritual but also so practical," Pittluck added.
Wimber believed that spiritual gifts of healing and speaking in tongues referred to in the Bible are still relevant. He suffered a stroke three years ago and reduced his workload. But continued to preach regularly.
"I didn't hear him very often, but I remember his sermons because they were so powerful," said Jim Clark of Long Beach, who watched the memorial service on close-circuit television from one of several overflow rooms at the sprawling church complex on La Palma Avenue. "When I read that he passed on, I knew I had to be here."