HARTLAND — David Hurst, the former pastor of the Church of God on Manson Street in Pittsfield, was arrested Thursday morning and charged with gross sexual assault.
Somerset County Assistant District Attorney Evert Fowle would not elaborate on the single charge of Class A gross sexual assault, and would not say whether the victim was an adult or a child.
Congregation members, however, have identified the alleged victims as two young boys who attended Sunday school at the church.
Hurst is being held at Somerset County Jail on $1,000 cash or $10,000 single surety bail.
Until Sunday, Nov. 7, Hurst had pastored the Pittsfield church for almost seven years, according to Church of God Overseer J. David Stevens. He said the church leaders and members “had no idea that David was struggling like this.”
He said Hurst had previously pastored a Church of God in Deer Isle “but there has never been a single problem or complaint about David.”
“The family called me the day before, on Saturday [Nov. 6], and informed me about the situation,” Stevens said after the arrest. “They said he had turned himself in to the police and then was getting some therapy.”
Stevens said Hurst “is no longer credentialed by the church but we are helping him with therapy. We are helping him as Christians.”
Hurst had been the leader of the Pittsfield congregation for 6 1/2 years, said Stevens. Under his direction, the church grew considerably and performed many good works, he said. “I don’t know if you are familiar with that church,” he said, “but they feed people. They clothe people.”
On Sunday, Nov. 7, Hurst “voluntarily resigned” his position, said Stevens, and his name was painted off the church sign.
On that Sunday, Stevens led church services and read two letters to the congregation, one from Hurst and one from Hurst’s wife, Charlotte. “The letter from David was both an explanation and an apology,” said Stevens.
Within the past week, Hurst moved from the parsonage next to the church and has been living in Hartland.
Meanwhile, Hurst’s former congregation are struggling with what they say is “the ultimate betrayal.”
Ernestine Bent of Detroit teaches Sunday school and plays piano at the church. “This is a small town,” she said, referring to Pittsfield. “If you can’t trust a fellow that is supposed to be a church leader, who can you trust? How many more of these guys are out there? The whole thing makes me sick.”
Bent said the letter of apology that Hurst provided to the congregation included a statement by Hurst “that he knew what he did was wrong and he wanted to pay for it.”
Bent said Hurst told her he befriended the children in an attempt to bring them to Sunday school and it was her understanding that Hurst did not voluntarily come forward but was questioned by church members after one of the boys involved talked to a woman at the church.
Bent said most of the congregation are struggling to understand what has happened. “According to my Bible, God hates this sort of thing. If anyone gets up there as a pastor and deceives the people, well, I’m having a real hard time with this.” she said.
Stevens said Paul Floyd of Plymouth, who was formerly pastor of the Pittsfield Church of God, has been appointed as interim pastor.
Hurst was arrested at his Hartland residence by Pittsfield Police Officer Len Macdaid and Maine State Police Detective Mark Brooks. Pittsfield Police Chief Steven Emery referred all inquiries to Somerset County District Attorney James Mitchell.
Mitchell did not return calls to his office Thursday for information.