A Friend's Passing

GLBT community loses ally

Rev. John Mack died at George Washington University Hospital on Tuesday, Jan. 15, eight weeks after developing High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and pneumonia while on vacation in Nepal. He was 65.

Before retiring in June 2007, Mack was for 23 years a pastor at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 309 E Street NW, an ”open and affirming” congregation.

Mack and his wife, Barbara Gerlach, were trekking at about 17,000 feet in Nepal near Mount Everest during their ”retirement adventure” when Mack developed difficulty breathing.

”The trekking group we were with helped us,” says Gerlach. ”When he didn’t recover with using a little oxygen, he was air ambulanced down to Katmandu.”

Mack stayed in Nepal’s capital for a week before being transported to India, where he was treated in an intensive-care unit for four weeks. He was then transported back to the United States, to Washington’s GWU Hospital.

”There was no comeback in his body,” Gerlach says of Mack’s weeklong stay at GWU. ”He came back home on the fifth of January, to be with family and kids, sort of preparing to die.”

In 2006 the Washington D.C. Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) honored Mack with its ”Faith In Action” award.

”We’ve had close gay and lesbian friends for years,” Gerlach says of her husband’s inclusive theology, adding that the godfathers of their two children are gay. ”Since our days in seminary…’open and affirming’ are just part of who we have been all our lives.”

A memorial service for Mack is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, 4704 13th St. NW.

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