When I was voiceless: How laypeople stepped in

When doctors recommended radiation treatment for my thyroid cancer, they explained the treatment’s side effects. I’d have a very sore throat and lose my voice for about six weeks. I was astounded. What? Lose my voice for six weeks? I’m a pastor! How would I cope?

Challenging days were ahead, not only for me, but also for my congregation. We trust in God, but truly did not know how God would meet our needs during this time. Our little church could not afford to pay for pulpit supply—the members had already paid for three weeks of pastors when I had surgery.

I shared my story with the board of deacons. After time for prayer and discernment, the deacons decided that they would be the pastor’s voice during this time. Six weeks—six deacons—yes, we could do it. The six weeks would cover the season of Advent through Epiphany. We traditionally light the candle on the Advent wreath each Sunday during this season, so we developed themes of hope, love, joy, and peace to go with the candle of the week. The deacons, and sometimes their spouses, signed up for the week of their choice.