New York Man Dies Laughing in Church
by Elroy Willis
NEW YORK CITY (EAP) -- An 82-year-old Brooklyn man died from laughter yesterday after being told the Earth and universe are less than 7000 years old during a local church service he was attending.
Pastor Jonathan Verncast who was temporarily filling in for Pastor George Benegin at Kingswood Episcopal church, said that he didn't intend to kill anyone with his sermon, and considers the incident as a "mysterious work of the Lord."
"I didn't mean to make anyone laugh, and my deepest sympathies go out to the widow and her family," Verncast said.
"My husband was a geologist and spent his career studying rock formations which he believed were millions of years old," said Louise Elderberry, widow of George Elderberry who was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics who failed to revive him.
"When the preacher started talking about Noah's flood and a young Earth, my husband started giggling and finally broke out into uncontrollable laughter when the preacher said the Grand Canyon was formed by the Biblical flood."
"He started slapping his knee and elbowed me, then broke out into full-scale laughter. His face turned red at first, then blue, and he looked like he was having trouble catching his breath. After that, he clutched his chest and fell right out of the pew onto the floor," she said.
"It was probably a heart attack brought on by the heavy laughter that killed him," said Larry Goldstein, attending physician at Mercy Hospital where Elderberry was taken by ambulance.
"I'm a doctor, not a geologist, but even I know the Earth is way older than 7000 years, and I can understand why he was laughing so hard," he said.
"He was laughing so hard that some of the other people around him started laughing out loud too," said Rolena Washington, who was sitting in the pew behind the Elderberry family.
"My husband and I couldn't figure out why he was laughing so hard. The Bible says God created everyting in six days around 6500 years ago, and it's no laughing matter," she said.
Verncast said he was just filling in for a few weeks while the regular pastor was on vacation, and that next week's sermon will be on something a lot less likely to cause potential laughter.
"It'll most likely be something about love and kindness, or the threat of Hell, and nothing to do with geology," he said.