The Orange County Register reports…
“The crowd at Cottonwood Church rose, applauded, and whistled as Pastor Bayless Conley took the stage Sunday, more than five months after suffering major injuries in a Catalina Island boating crash.
“It’s good to be back in the pulpit,” said Conley, who delivered his first sermon since the crash late January.
Conley leads Cottonwood, a Los Alamitos megachurch with a 7,000-seat auditorium, along with his wife, Janet. He also hosts a Bible teaching TV show called “Answers With Bayless Conley.” On Sunday, people from more than 20 states and 18 countries tuned into the service through live stream, Conley said.
The crash occurred Jan. 27 when Conley and two others were in a boat that crashed into rocks while traveling about 18-20 mph, Conley said. The group had gone to Catalina to dive for lobster. Conley said he was hurt the worst.
Among his injuries, his carotid artery was damaged and his throat was crushed. His brain was bleeding. He couldn’t swallow or drink water. Conley spent a month in the hospital and recovered at home.
If it wasn’t for a Coast Guard rescue team that was practicing nearby, Conley said he would have died.
“I’m not there 100 percent yet, but friend, it has been miraculous what has happened,” Conley told the audience.
On Sunday, Conley based his sermon on five lessons surrounding his recovery: promises, people, patience, pride and the Prince of Peace.
Conley touched on the importance of being connected to a church in a time of tragedy and talked about how humbling it was for him to have to rely on others.
“God gives everyone of us a certain currency in life with which to bring influence and change. … The main currency God has given me, it’s been my speech. It’s been my words. And to have that impaired, I cannot tell you how incredibly humbling that has been,” Conley said.
Kimeryn Williams of Anaheim has been a member of Cottonwood for 18 years and said Conley’s recovery unified the church.
“It was emotional, but it was really great to see (the) pastor be back in the pulpit. Though he is our pastor, he’s almost like a father figure to a lot of us, said Williams, 44. “When the accident happened, we were all panicked but at the same time we knew immediately to start praying.”
Robert Hereen of Whittier attended the services with his 22-year-old son and said the church staff helped keep everything in line during Conley’s recovery.
“I think it helped us grow. It helped us be more of a family,” said Hereen, 46.
“… All the pastoral staff stepped up and contributed during his absence. If by happenstance, God decided to take him, the church would still be alive and thrive,” Hereen added.”