Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa pastor's flock prays and grieves over his death

TAMPA — As investigators tried to determine what caused the Rev. Forrest Pollock's plane to smash into the side of a North Carolina mountain, members of his church tried to find meaning in his death and the loss of his son.

Wednesday evening they gathered in the brand-new, 3,450-seat sanctuary at Bell Shoals Baptist to pray and grieve.

"Why did this happen? It's been asked as long as there have been human beings walking on the Earth," said Associate Pastor George Thomasson, as he prepared to lead the prayer service. "Ultimately you have to go back to the very foundation. … What looks to us as a tragedy, from God's perspective fits in his plan."

Pollock, 44, and his 13-year-old son, Preston, were killed when his plane went down on Monday in the Shining Rock Wilderness area, on Cold Mountain in Pisgah National Forest, a four-hour hike from the nearest road.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are searching for clues about how the plane broke apart, spokesman Peter Knudson said.

A complete investigation will take about a year, Knudson said.

Pollock got his civilian pilot's license in 1995, and in January had logged 560 flying hours.

The day Pollock's plane crashed, wind gusts in the area had been measured at up to 60 mph.

"Airplanes fly in high winds all the time," said Les Dorr of the Federal Aviation Administration. "It's a question of, did the airplane run into some kind of turbulence, or for whatever reason did winds blow it off course or the pilot got into an area where he was not sure where he was."

At Bell Shoals Baptist Church, senior pastors tried to work out the details of transporting the bodies of Pollock and his son back to Florida, even as they arranged for that night's prayer service.

Thomasson said he would lead worship services at the church for the time being, following the program of special events Pollock had planned to draw new members to the burgeoning mega-church.

The church was already large, and known for political activism, when Pollock came aboard in 2002, Thomasson said.

But Pollock's energy and drive helped to expand its scope, both in size and national profile.

Pollock called on his flock to "dig deep" to finance the $24-million sanctuary, Thomasson said. The sanctuary was opened in April; Pollock preached just three Sunday sermons in it.

Pollock was also unabashedly political, and reached out to other leaders in the conservative Christian movement nationwide.

It was largely his influence that brought a slate of A-list conservative speakers to a conference at the church in the fall. He was one of only a handful of pastors tapped to preach at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention's annual conference.

"If he had a concern that could be addressed through networking with other leaders, he had a pool of other leaders (to call upon)," Thomasson said.

But Pollock never sought to overshadow his church. And community members say it will survive his untimely passing.

"It's devastating, and no one's going to get over it real quick," said Mark Saunders, pastor of the neighboring Baylife Church. "But Forrest would have told you, the church was never meant to be built around him. It was always meant to be built around God."

Times staff writer Jan Wesner and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. S.I. Rosenbaum can

be reached at (813) 661-2442.

>>Fast facts

Funeral service

Funeral services for the Rev. Forrest Pollock and his son Preston Pollock will be held at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon Saturday. Visitation is from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., with services beginning at 11 a.m.

Tampa pastor's flock prays and grieves over his death 05/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 19, 2008 1:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bill Nelson knocks Rick Scott over Senate health bill


    Sen. Bill Nelson attacked Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 rival, over today's trip to Washington.

  2. LaVar Ball appears at WWE event, son LaMelo uses slur


    LOS ANGELES  -- LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring. 
    The outspoken father of NBA Draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly-minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old son LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday's "WWE …

    LaVar Ball took off his shirt during a WWE broadcast.
  3. Facing defections, Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote


    WASHINGTON — In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom, right, and communications staff director Antonia Ferrier, left, as they walk to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. Senate Republicans unveil a revised health care bill in hopes of securing support from wavering GOP lawmakers, including one who calls the drive to whip his party's bill through the Senate this week "a little offensive." [Associated Press]
  4. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]
  5. Florida man sits in jail 90 days when drywall powder is mistaken for cocaine (w/video)


    OVIEDO — A Florida man spent 90 days in jail after police officers who stopped him for driving without headlights said white powder found in his car was cocaine.

    Karlos Cashe spent 90 days in jail after Oviedo police officers who stopped him for driving without headlights said white powder found in his car was cocaine. But he walked out of jail last week after lab results determined the powder in the handyman's car was actually drywall. [Photo from video]