For at least the last five years, Pastor Robert Lee Hamilton Sr. of Golden Gate Cathedral Church of God In Christ in New Albany, Mississippi, has been telling his family and parishioners that he wanted to be raptured or die preaching the word in church.
On Sunday, the beloved father of six got his wish. He suffered a “massive heart attack” after preaching an “eerie” sermon on holiness and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital at 1:17 p.m., according to his son Norman Hamilton, who was present at the time.
Pastor Hamilton was 84.
“He’s been speaking this, and it’s been his testimony for at least five, six years or more. He said, ‘If I don’t get raptured in church … I want to die in the pulpit while I’m preaching the word.’ That would be his way to die, and that’s what God did,” Hamilton told The Christian Post Monday.
“He said, ‘I don’t want to be at home, I don’t want to be at the hospital. If I die, I want the Lord to rapture me, but if not, I want to die in the church preaching the word.’”
A week earlier, the church that Pastor Hamilton had led for more than 45 years had done a presentation about heart disease awareness.
“Dr. Smith told us ways we can be more active and how to prevent Heart Disease,” the church noted in a Facebook post on March 1.
Around the same time, Hamilton said his father had appeared “kind of weak.” Since he had never known his father to be a sickly man, his death on Sunday was shocking.
“He was great strength all my life that I’ve known him. Never been to the hospital or anything, never been sick. He got into the church yesterday, feeling good, speaking, and he sat down at the pulpit in his chair around about 1 o’clock. [Then], he looked up to Heaven like he looked up to the sky, and he died; like he had a massive heart attack right then and there,” Hamilton said of his father.
The whole congregation in attendance of just over 200 people was alerted to the pastor’s emergency because he was still holding his microphone when he sat down but dropped it as his heart failed him.
“He left his mic on. That’s how we knew. The mic had hit the floor. Everybody looked up, and we saw him and he was slumped over,” Hamilton said.
The grieving son said it felt like his father had somehow sensed what was coming because his final sermon talking about holiness was earnest.
“Holiness — that was his message. He was telling the members that you have to be saved and filled with the Holy Ghost to make it to Heaven: ‘Hold on, hold on to what you have.’ That was his final message to the church before he sat down,” he said. “He was like, ‘Get ready!’ It was an eerie feeling like he kinda knew what was going on.”
Hamilton said when his father collapsed, many people tried to revive him, and there was a lot of crying.
“It was chaos. It was hollering. Everybody ran up to him to take care of him. CPR, everything, the whole nine [yards],” he said.
Sky Wilson, a young deacon at the Golden Gate Cathedral who also works at Serenity Funeral Homes, Inc, the company handling the funeral arrangements, hailed his late pastor as “a great man of God.”
“I don’t know what to say or start. I’m just thankful to have a great man of God in my life no other than my superintendent, doctor, pastor, spiritual father, father figure; Superintendent Robert L. Hamilton, Sr., I’m glad I had you in my life for 11 years,” Wilson began in a post on Facebook.
“You have been my Guidance all these years. You took me in your arms and lead me the right way. Taught me everything I need to know about being saved, sanctified and Holy Ghost Filled, mowing grass, planting a garden, being a good deacon, how to treat a woman and preparing me for when I get married. Job well done!! I’m at peace knowing you are in a much better place!! I love you so much!! I gave you your flowers as you lived and going to take care of you all the way!! I gotcha covered Pastor,” he wrote.
When asked to describe his father, Norman Hamilton said that he was an “awesome man” who “took care of his family.”
“He loved his wife. He was married to one wife for 63 years this year,” the son said. “No kids out of wedlock. He was a holy man, an awesome man. He got saved and sanctified at 16 years of age. He’s been running with the Lord ever since. We was in shock. He was doing well, and all of a sudden, he was out, slumped over.”