Officials at the Real Life Church are dealing with the unexpected death of one their own after learning Pastor Jim Howard took his own life Wednesday.
Within a couple of hours of having learned of Howard’s death, church staffers sent personalized notices to parishioners explaining what had happened.
Rusty George, lead pastor for the church, planned to make a special statement during Thursday’s night service.
“It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm we suffered a tragic loss on our church staff this week. On Wednesday, Jan. 23, Jim Howard — a beloved pastor here at RLC — took his own life,” George said Thursday in a statement released by the church.
Homicide detectives began investigating the death of a person they suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the backyard of a Valencia home Wednesday.
Shortly before 3:40 p.m., paramedics with the Los Angeles County Fire Department were dispatched to the home on North Sunny Creek Drive, due to a report of a gunshot wound.
Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau were called in to investigate a gunshot wound to the head.
Official confirmation of the cause of death rests with the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
“I can’t confirm anything right now,” Sgt. Tim O’Quinn of the LASD Homicide Bureau said Thursday. “I can tell you it’s not a criminal incident.”
Real Life Church officials promptly scheduled a moment to address Howard’s death.
“As all of us who knew Jim can attest, he was a wonderful man with a deep love for Jesus and a passion for sharing the grace of God with anyone he met,” George said in the prepared statement. “Sadly, Jim suffered in private with mental health challenges — some of which he bravely discussed in public — and was wrestling with some personal issues in recent months. This week he made the tragic decision to end his pain.”
The statement added: “We have arranged for professional counselors to support our staff and volunteers who are grieving over Jim’s passing.”
George plans to address Howard’s death in the broader context, pertaining to the crisis of suicide in America, during this weekend’s worship services at Real Life Church. The public is invited to participate at the scheduled times of 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. or 5 p.m. on Sunday.