2 UMC pastors killed in car crash after attending joint worship service together

The scene after a two-vehicle double-fatality accident at Highway 13 & Blaine's Crossing Road in Linn County on July 7, 2024.
The scene after a two-vehicle double-fatality accident at Highway 13 & Blaine's Crossing Road in Linn County on July 7, 2024. | X/Linn County Sheriff's Office

Congregations and family members are grieving the loss of two United Methodist Church pastors, the Rev. Charles Layton, 65, and the Rev. Carol Mart, 77, in a car accident in Bertram, Iowa, on Sunday. They were returning from a joint worship service they attended at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids earlier that day.

The accident occurred around 1 p.m. local time on Blaine’s Crossing Road as they crossed Highway 13, resulting in a collision with another vehicle, The Gazette reported, saying both pastors were pronounced dead at the scene.

Layton served the Asbury and Kenwood Park United Methodist churches, while Mart led the Buffalo United Methodist Church. The two had carpooled to the worship service and later went out for lunch together before the fatal incident.

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“This is a devastating shock to families, ministry colleagues, and the congregations they served. Please hold these two pastors and all who love them in your prayers,” Pastor Jonathan Heifner of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Cedar Rapids, wrote on social media. “They have both had a positive impact upon our Circuit ministries and upon me as a colleague in ministry, and they will be missed.”

Scott Meador, pastor at Lovely Lane United Methodist Church and leader of the Cedar Rapids United Methodist circuit, described both individuals as having “big hearts” and a deep love for their congregations. “You could tell that they loved their people, and their people really loved them back. That was a strong characteristic of both of them,” Meador noted.

Chuck Johnson, a member of the leadership team at Asbury, spoke about Layton’s impactful ministry. “He was a minister with a love of music and singing. He was part of the choir as much as possible. He loved, like all Methodists do maybe, he loved potlucks,” Johnson was quoted as saying. “He gave wonderful, beautiful sermons. … He was very down to earth in his sermons.”

Mart, remembered for her engaging and personal teaching style, often shared lessons pulled from her family experiences.

Bob Marrs, a member of the Buffalo congregation, recalled her approachability and genuine care for her community. “She was very personable and really seemed to care. Pastors are paid to care, but I think she was someone where that was her fundamental personality,” Marrs was quoted as saying. “She worked very hard with thinking of ways to bring people into the church and make them feel comfortable.”

In his social media post, Heifner acknowledged, “In moments like these, we remember the grief that comes with loss, and it is also a chance to remember the gift of being in a connectional church: none of us has to grieve alone. If you knew either of these pastors and you’d like to talk through your own feelings at this tragic news, please reach out to one of our pastors, we are here for you.”

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