Retired pastor in critical condition after bike hit by car

By Updated: July 31, 2020 6:40 AM CT | Published: July 30, 2020 6:00 PM CT

Family, friends, colleagues and countless others are praying for Rev. Dr. Steve Montgomery, who was critically injured Tuesday evening when he was hit by a car while riding his bike.

Montgomery, 68, who retired as the widely respected and beloved senior pastor of Idlewild Presbyterian Church a little over a year ago, is in critical condition in intensive care at Regional One.

“He is fighting for his life,” said Dr. Scott Morris, founder of Church Health and Montgomery’s longtime friend.

The accident occurred about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday on North Perkins at Sequoia, about a mile and a half from Montgomery’s home.

“Dad’s favorite thing to do was to go on a bike ride after dinner to clear his head,” said his daughter, Sumita. “His favorite time to ride was at dusk when it wasn’t as hot.”

Montgomery, who was wearing a helmet, was riding northbound on Perkins in the bike lane.


Idlewild’s Montgomery retires with lasting impact on the community


The driver of the car that hit Montgomery “stated that he was traveling in the right lane when (Montgomery) started to turn left as if he was trying to go west on Sequoia Rd when the crash happened,” the police report said. The driver “was not issued a citation or arrested pending investigation.”

The driver of the car that hit Montgomery and the driver of a truck behind the car both stopped to help.

Duke Henry, a retired Navy medic, was in the truck. He administered CPR and tried to keep Montgomery awake. Nearby residents brought out blankets.

“The guy who was driving the car called 911 while I administered CPR,” Henry said.

“I noticed signs of internal bleeding. I cleared his airway and got him breathing. Then I laid down beside him and talked to him to keep him calm, try to keep him alive. I just saw it and wanted to do what I could do. I just hoped it was enough.”

Montgomery suffered a number of broken bones, internal bleeding and clotting. He was not carrying any identification, so he was taken to Regional One as a John Doe.

When he didn’t return from his bike ride, the family called the police.

“Mr. Henry kept calling the hospital to see if anyone had claimed dad,” Sumita said. “That’s how we found him. He left a note with his phone number and said he was a witness. He was just an angel.”

Members of Idlewild were notified of Montgomery’s accident in an email sent by Rev. Anne H.K. Apple and Rev. Sara Dorrien-Christians.

“Yesterday’s news of Steve Montgomery’s bicycle accident was both shocking and consuming. We heard from many of you via email, calls, and texts; your outpouring of concern and sadness was palpable,” they wrote.

“We responded as a community of faith responds — checking in with each other, waiting and breathing with each other, praying without ceasing. Those who served at our mobile food bank stopped to pray. Idlewild’s staff gathered at a safe distance in the sanctuary to pray. We heard that many of you prayed as you scrubbed and swept and sorted.”

The family and church leaders are sharing information about Montgomery on Caring Bridge.

“From the moment of the accident, Steve has been surrounded by God’s arms,” Rev. Margaret Burnett wrote on Caring Bridge Thursday afternoon.

“The driver of the car; a retired Navy (medic) who was first to the scene; a number of Good Samaritans; EMTs; nurses; doctors; and many others have been beside him every step of the way.

“(Wife) Patti, (son) AJ, and (daughter) Sumita have been able to see him, and despite being on a ventilator, Steve has been able to respond to their voices.

“Family and friends from around the globe — a myriad of faiths, ages, races, genders, and languages — are praying in one voice.”

Montgomery became Idlewild’s senior pastor in 2000, after serving two Presbyterian churches in suburban Atlanta for 16 years.

He is known locally and nationally for his efforts to gently urge and help his congregation, his Presbytery, and the larger community to reach out with courage and compassion to neighbors who are homeless, Muslim and LGBTQ, among others.

“My approach has been: This is what I see Scripture telling us. Come let us reason together. Come let us love each other and grow together, using Jesus Christ as the focus,” he said in his farewell sermon. “Let’s look at his life and the people he hung out with and ate with and touched. Let’s not get hung up on one verse from Timothy or Paul or Leviticus.”

Montgomery, who grew up in Richmond, Virginia, has a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School and a doctorate from Columbia Theological Seminary. Before going to Atlanta, he spent four years as pastor of a small church in Appalachian Kentucky.

In his nearly 20 years at Idlewild, he delivered more than 700 sermons he preached and presided over 350 baptisms, 135 weddings and 333 funerals.

“The first thing I will do is put away my alarm clock,” Montgomery told The Daily Memphian when he retired in 2019. “I won’t be needing that anymore. And I will be buying a bicycle.”

Topics

Steve Montgomery Idlewild Presbyterian Church
David Waters

David Waters

David Waters is Distinguished Journalist in Residence and assistant director of the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis.


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