February 10, 2006

Church weathers sex abuse charges and fire damage

Baltimore Sun

By Matthew Hay Brown and Annie Linskey
Sun reporters
Originally published February 10, 2006

SALISBURY // Dr. Julius Zant stood at the pulpit, arms outstretched, beseeching the Lord.

A few steps away, the entrance of New Life the Apostolic Church lay gutted by fire: a cash register melted, the hand-hewn greeter's station blackened with soot. An acrid smell still hung heavy in the 1,000-seat sanctuary; a fine layer of ash coated the pews.

But in the adjacent multipurpose room, the air tasted fresh. About 75 believers swayed to the gospel hum of a keyboard synthesizer as Zant called out in prayer.

"As the building is rebuilt, let us be rebuilt," said the Salisbury neurosurgeon, an elder at the Pentecostal church. "As the building is renovated, let us be renovated. As the building is renewed, let us be renewed."

These are painful times for the 22-year-old congregation at the edge of this Eastern Shore city. On Feb. 1, the youth minister at New Life, the son of the founder, was arrested on sex charges stemming from allegations of an affair with a 16-year-old girl who attends the church. Two days later, the founder, Bishop Richard C. Lawson, arrived to find in flames the foyer he had helped to build.

Posted by kshaw at February 10, 2006 08:28 AM