Oct 6, 2015

A positive church service amid pastor sex assault charges

October 05, 2015
Hamilton Spectator
By Bill Dunphy

Peter Rigo
Peter Rigo
If members of the One Community Church have any doubts about their founding pastor, Peter Rigo, following news last week he'd been charged with sexual assault, you wouldn't know it from their Sunday service.

Rigo, 50, was charged last month with sexual assault and committing an indecent act.

The charges stem from an alleged single incident in 2006 or 2007 involving a church member.

Rigo was released on a promise to appear and no further details of the allegations have been made public.

The church released a statement standing by Rigo as "a dedicated husband, father and friend" and, noting the charge was a police matter. It said, "We trust the judicial system and its process (will) find this allegation false."

It's not the first time the charismatic congregation has found themselves in trouble. The church was labelled a cult by critics and parents in an investigation produced by W-Five for CTV news. And a Milton couple was criminally charged amid allegations they had hired a "deprogrammer" to kidnap their adult daughter in an attempt to remove her from the church. Those charges were ultimately stayed.

In 2009 Revenue Canada stripped Rigo and his church of charitable status, saying that church funds had been improperly used to pay for gym memberships and vacations to places like Hawaii.

The following year the church rebranded as a non-profit and changed its name. In 2014, it moved out of its downtown Hamilton location to its current site on Plains Road West.

About 60 members were on hand Sunday morning at the building, which is a converted pool and spa store perched on the Hamilton/Burlington boundary.

Smiling greeters waved welcome placards at passing cars, urging drivers to turn in, while visitors entering the church building ran a gentle gauntlet of still more greeters welcoming members and visitors alike with smiles, hugs and handshakes.

Inside, there are quality coffees and snacks and members are invited to bring their beverages into the service, which takes place down the hall in a theatre with a long stage and an impressive sound and light setup. Two massive flat screen TVs flank the stage offering lyrics to songs, trippy visuals and occasional bits of scripture.

The nearly two-hour service is built around loud, anthemic music provided by an enthusiastic and talented band of singers and musicians who had the congregation on their feet and singing joyously along within the first minute.

While Rigo didn't participate, his wife and co-founder Peggy Rigo preached for over half an hour, as did his daughter, Rachel Shuttlesworth.

At the very end of the service, associate pastor (and Rigo's son-in-law) Matt Shuttlesworth appeared on stage to whip the crowd into a giving frenzy for their weekly tithe and offering.

In his talk, Shuttlesworth suddenly stopped and said he wanted the church to pray for "the Hamilton Spectator and its reporters and editors and for the CBC.

"The words they print in the paper and on their websites, the stories, they don't matter," Shuttlesworth said. "They don't bother me. I want you to pray for them, that Jesus will come into their lives and heal them," he said amid waving arms. Quiet calls of "Amen" and "that's right!" arose from his audience in the darkness.

And then he said the stories can't stop them from doing their work, from being generous to the city that is their home, as volunteers began passing offering buckets down the aisles.


905-526-3262 | @BillAtTheSpec


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