The Rev. Gordon Solomon of Christ's Community Church in Inglewood… (L.A. County Sheriff's Department )
The last time the Rev. Gordon Solomon spoke from the pulpit at Christ's Community Church in Inglewood, he asked the congregation to pray for him and his family as he faced troubling times.
Members had assumed last month that the 50-year-old pastor had an illness in the family. But on Wednesday, they discovered Solomon was battling allegations that he had sexually abused a teenage congregant.
"I didn't think it was something like this," said Walter Woodard, 57, a musician for the church. "But I know I cannot put my faith in man."
Solomon was charged Friday with nine sex-related felony counts, including committing lewd acts on a child. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, and is being held in lieu of $3-million bail. Authorities believe there may be other victims.
As a leader of the church, Solomon worked alongside children during Bible classes, computer lessons and choir rehearsal, Woodard said. However, the musician stressed he never witnessed anything inappropriate or unusual.
Church officials could not be reached for comment.
Authorities said Solomon met the now 14-year-old victim at his church. The alleged abuse started in June 2010 and didn't end until Sunday, according to the Los Angeles County district's attorney office.
The two allegedly exchanged sexually explicit emails and text messages. Sometimes, they would secretly meet at different locations throughout the city, according to a statement from theLos Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The victim's mother stumbled upon an inappropriate text sent to the girl, authorities said. She called the police immediately.
Prosecutors charged Solomon with seven counts of committing a lewd act on a child, one count of continuous sexual abuse and one count of oral copulation of a person under the age of 14.
He faces up to 26 years and eight months in state prison if convicted.
Christ's Community Church on Hindry Avenue was formed in 1994 and serves a congregation of 200 people, according to the church's website. In the community, the church was known for its twice-a-week food pantry, where Solomon and other members passed out fresh produce, canned goods and bread to those in need.
Last year, the church gave out more than $1 million in food and other items to families in the community, according to the church's website.
"We continue to strive to do more," Solomon wrote.
On Friday morning, several senior citizens arrived at the Inglewood church for the food giveaway, but were disappointed to learn it had been canceled. The sign posted on the gate of the church made no mention of the turmoil facing the congregation. It only stated: "No food giveaway."
Many spoke about how the church and Solomon filled a void in the working-class community.
The food pantry "helped me out tremendously," said Charles Caldwell, 56, of Inglewood. "It's our main source of food."
Caldwell left empty-handed and returned home to his family of five. But not before inquiring about the next giveaway.
Woodard, the church's musician, had no answers for Caldwell. He was still calling around trying to figure out if the church would have a service Sunday.