Rick Warren, leads Christmas Eve services at Saddleback Church. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)
Rick Warren's Saddleback Church congregation in Orange County began Sunday morning worship services with a prayer for their pastor, who announced the day before that his 27-year-old son had committed suicide.
Tom Hollladay, a teaching pastor at the mega-church in Lake Forest, led the prayer for Warren and his wife, Kay, at the 9 a.m. service, according to the Associated Press. Warren did not attend the service.
On Saturday, Warren released an emotional message to his congregation in which he paid tribute to his son Matthew Warren, who he said died Saturday after battling mental illness all of his life.
"Today after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his own life," Warren said of his son.
The younger Warren's death at his home on Pradera Drive in Mission Viejo was reported to Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials at about 5:25 p.m. Friday, said Supervising Deputy Coroner Dan Aikin.
Aikin said he could not confirm an earlier report by coroner's officials to City News Service that Warren, 27, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He said a cause of death could not be confirmed until after an autopsy is completed Tuesday.
In his statement to his congregation, Rick Warren talked about how "only those closest knew that [Matthew] struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, even suicidal thoughts."
He described his son as a "kind, gentle and compassionate man" with a "brilliant intellect" who was sensitive to the needs of others.
"Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of his relentless pain. I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said, 'Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?' but he kept going for another decade."
Among those offering condolences was Harvest Christian Fellowship leader Greg Laurie, who tweeted followers to join him in a prayer for Warren and his wife.
Laurie, whose adult son Christopher was killed in a 2008 car crash, noted on his blog that he had experienced similar pain. "At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word," he wrote.
The Christian Post reported that Laurie was joined by a host of other religious leaders, including Will Graham, the grandson of Rev. Billy Graham.
The elder Warren is a world-famous evangelist and the bestselling author of "The Purpose-Driven Life." He delivered the invocation at President Obama's inauguration in 2008.
Hikers reported missing in Eaton Canyon are found unharmed
Mexican police search Tijuana home for Northridge kidnap suspect
Pilot error caused tanker collision with Bay Bridge, state board says