Community speaks out about former pastor accused of embezzlement

OLIVET, MI. (WILX) -- Former pastor, 67-year-old Douglas Hammond, was in court on Monday.

He is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from Olivet First Assembly of God.

Monday, members of the community spoke out about the situation.

Church member Breck Searl says Olivet is a quiet, small community and so is the church. He says all the members had a personal connection with their former pastor and did not see the allegations coming.

"We're past the comfort zone, we're moving on. We're there to praise Christ and that's what we'll continue to do," said Searl.

Searl tells News 10 he and the rest of the congregation found out about the allegations of embezzlement through Hammond's own written confession to the church.

"It's a hard, bitter pill," said Searl. "Everybody that attends the church was extremely shocked by what has transpired. We're also taught as Christians to forgive because we all sin. He will be punished accordingly by the courts and by God, so we're not to judge."

The shock was felt throughout the entire Olivet community.

Ted who lives near the church says he thought he knew the former pastor well.

"That's a ton of money, for a preacher to do something like that, it's just unspeakable," he said. "They were such good people - he was. I've known him since school. I just can't believe that he would do something like that, but you just don't know people for sure," said Ted.

Olivet College is just minutes away from the church.

Student Madison Love says the allegations have been the talk of the campus.

"I feel like they're [pastors] supposed to set a good example, so I feel like that was really odd. I wouldn't expect it coming from Olivet," said Love.

When asked how the church is holding up, all Searl could say was that they will endure.

"We are still open-still praising Jesus every Sunday. It's hard to show sympathy, but forgiveness - yes. We all make choices. Some of them are bad. Some of them are worse than others, but he's been forgiven," said Searl.

Hammond is due back in court on Feb. 21 after waiving his preliminary exam on Monday.

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