Days after their pastor was arrested in an undercover prostitution sting, members of his Hinsdale church gathered Sunday to pray and begin planning a new future for the congregation that Rev. Phillip Haltom helped create.
The sermon at Trinity Presbyterian Church focused on forgiveness, an act that several church members said now had renewed, real-life meaning. Many of the congregation's 125 members brought food and home-baked goods to Haltom and his family, church leaders said. And while Haltom's missteps were not mentioned directly and he was not there, the themes of sin, repentance and atonement rang through the service.
"People are reeling and people are hurt. But at the same time, there's a real sense of concern. . . . Everybody loves him," said Rev. Ted Powers, who led the weekly service in Haltom's stead.
Haltom, 52, of the 900 block of Oakwood Terrace in Hinsdale was one of five men snared in an online prostitution bust last week. An undercover female officer posted an ad offering sex on the Craigslist Web site last month. Haltom allegedly responded, and when he arrived at the agreed location, he was arrested without incident, according to police in St. Charles, where the arrests occurred.
Haltom—a pastor, husband and father—now is charged with one count of solicitation of a sexual act.
He could not be reached for comment.
Haltom's future role within in the church remains unclear. Trinity leaders this week will sit down with members of the Presbytery of Chicago, a network of more than 100 congregations across the Chicago area. This will begin the process to determine the congregation's course and Haltom's role within it, officials said. Haltom is expected to appear before the group at a future date.
"Nothing has been decided yet," said John Bose, a church leader.
On Sunday, church members met privately after the service to discuss the week's events. Haltom initially alerted Trinity's leaders of his arrest; they, in turn, notified church members late last week.
Haltom came to Trinity three years ago.
A group of local families who wanted to start a new congregation recruited him from his post in St. Charles, Mo. At Trinity, he helped organize the church, expand its membership and recently oversaw its relocation from Hinsdale Middle School to The Community House in Hinsdale.
"He's had an impact on many people's lives and that won't be forgotten," Powers said.
Haltom is scheduled to appear at the Kane County courthouse May 22.
Gee! And people ask what's happening in the churches today! Who can you trust when you can't trust a preacher????