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Minister Accidentally Kills Self

October 2, 1998

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The youth minister wanted to drive home the message to the youth of his church: sin was like playing Russian roulette, and running with the wrong crowd, using drugs and carrying a gun would catch up to you.

At the end of his sermon before 250 youngsters and their parents, Melvyn Nurse put a .357-caliber pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. A blank inside flew apart and shattered his skull. He collapsed in the pulpit Sept. 24 and died Thursday at University Medical Center. He was 35.

``I didn’t know he was going to dramatize it in that way,″ said the Michael Cooper, an associate pastor at the Livingway Christian Fellowship Church International.

``We were absolutely stunned. Nobody moved. We thought it might be part of his sermon and he would pop back up,″ Cooper said Friday of Nurse’s accidental death. ``We knew he was using a blank, so I wasn’t uncomfortable with the demonstration.″

In the audience Saturday were Nurse’s wife, Debra, and his four daughters, ages 8, 9, 14, and 15.

During his sermon, Nurse opened the gun’s cylinder, inserted a blank, spun the cylinder and closed it. Each time he discussed a specific sin, he’d repeat the same motion, without putting in another blank, and fired the gun above his head.

Nurse, who had grown up on Jacksonville’s streets, asked to speak to the youth and their parents about gun use and sin. He urged teen-agers to turn over their guns and told parents some of the places where kids hide their guns, Cooper said.

``They needed to hear ways their teen-agers were fooling them,″ he said.

The sermon has had an impact on the youth of the church. One youngster, Cooper said, even turned gave his gun to his mother.

``It was a total wake-up call. They got the message,″ he said.