Beleaguered church continues Thanksgiving missions

11/26/2013, 2:25 p.m.
The celebratory mood at the event belied what the church has gone through this year. Earlier in the year, one ...

Thanksgiving began early for hundreds of area children who attended a cherished, annual holiday tradition at the Richmond Outreach Center (ROC).

The South Side Richmond church held its ROC Kids’ Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday, serving a hot Thanksgiving meal to “inner-city” children ands teens with the help of volunteers.

The day began with the church sending dozens of buses to some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods to bring an estimated 650 children and their families to the Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner, which went on without a hitch, featured traditional Thanksgiving staples, including turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and honey wheat rolls.

The celebratory mood at the event belied what the church has gone through this year. Earlier in the year, one of the ROC founders, Geronimo “Pastor G” Aguilar, was charged with sexual assault of minors and forced to resign as pastor as evidence against him mounted.

“We have all been going through a time of grieving and hurt over the moral failings of our former senior pastor,” said the board of directors at one of the church’s weekly services in September.

Aguilar was charged in Texas in May with seven felonies in two cases of sexual assault of two sisters under the age of 14.

The alleged assaults, which authorities said took place before Aguilar founded ROC in 2001, date back to 1996. Four of the felonies Aguilar faces carry potential life sentences.

“After our former pastor was arrested related to charges in Texas, the board of directors became aware of his multiple extramarital affairs with members of our church and community,” said the September statement by the board. “This biblically disqualified him from the office of pastor and leadership of the ROC in any capacity. The board of directors is committed to providing godly leadership at all levels of ministry.”

Several women came forward after Aguilar was charged, claiming they had sexual relations with him.

The church’s decision to continue longstanding traditions like the ROC Kids’ Thanksgiving Dinner puts into action its September statement when its board of directors said that along with ROC’s leadership team and staff, it has been “stabilizing and advancing” the church’s ministries.

“I am so thankful that they have been able to continue this valuable mission,” said Pamela Greene, whose two grandchildren participated in the dinner. “What the ROC does here is very much appreciated.”

The board, which also said that it would conduct a nationwide search for a pastor to help fulfill its mission of ‘Changing Lives, Making Life Changers’ has two interim pastors—David Wheeler and Louis “PJ” Preston.

All reference to Aguilar has been removed from the ROC’s website where it touts its ministries, including an upcoming one on Thanksgiving, this Thursday.

Each Thanksgiving, the ROC notes that it celebrates the men and women in its “discipleship homes” by serving them a Thanksgiving dinner.

“These men and women work tirelessly behind the scenes at our thrift stores, in our food pantry, cleaning our properties, and setting up for and cleaning up after every event,” noted the church in its explanation of the upcoming event.

“This Thanksgiving, we are going to celebrate by giving them a much-needed day off! In order to make this a true day off for them, they will be eating dinner at their respective discipleship homes instead of at the Big House.”