HAMMOND | A somber crowd of people filed into First Baptist Church's Wednesday night Bible study service with feelings of hurt and disappointment.
Several church members said they were praying for Pastor Jack Schaap, who was fired from his role as the church's leader Monday after allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a young girl surfaced.
Most declined to comment prior to the service and said they were praying for the Schaap family.
More than a thousand people filled the church during the Bible study, which was led by the Christian Law Association's David Gibbs Jr.
Heartfelt "amens" were spoken throughout the crowd as Gibbs vowed to fully investigate the scandal that left many shaking their heads.
He asked anyone who may have any additional information to bring it forward to the church immediately.
Just before dismissing the congregation, Pastor Eddie Lapina announced he would be serving as interim pastor for the time being.
“Thank you, First Baptist Church, for coming tonight,” he said. “I'm very sorry.”
While expressing how hurt he was by the situation, he also offered counseling for any person who felt he or she needed it and then asked the church to continue to pray through the tough time.
Jose Castillo was feeling hurt before hearing the official word from the church of what was happening, he said.
Castillo, 53, of Hammond, has attended the church for two years and couldn't have predicted the church would ever have to let the pastor go.
The church's administration has been cooperating with law enforcement and vowed to be transparent with the fellowship as well as the media as the story unfolds.
“I feel very comfortable (with how the church is handling the situation),” he said. “That's the proper way to do it.”
Joseph Flores, 57, of Hammond, was emotional after the service and also said he agreed with the church's decision to keep everything open.
“I'm glad to see that they're doing something,” he said. “But I hope they show the good that he's done for us, too. He straightened up this part of the city, and he's done a lot for this community. I hope people don't forget that.”