By most accounts, James Wilkerson was a model youth minister at his Kensington church.
Parishioners young and old were naturally drawn in by his warm and friendly personality and delightful musical talents.
Wilkerson was so well-liked - and trusted - at the Summerfield-Siloam United Methodist Church that some parents let their kids hang out - and even sleep over - at his house.
But that goodwill was replaced by fury and outrage when Wilkerson was arrested on Thursday, accused of molesting five teens over the past year.
One of Wilkerson's alleged victims flagged down a bike cop Wednesday night to share anguished details of the assaults, prompting four other victims to come forward, police Sgt. Brian King, of the special victims unit said yesterday.
The alleged victims are all boys, ages 13 to 16. They told investigators that the assaults occurred inside the church, on Dauphin Street near Tulip, where Wilkerson sometimes taught a kung-fu class, and at his home a block away, King said.
Wilkerson, 39, was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, corrupting the morals of a minor, simple assault, indecent assault and recklessly endangering the welfare of a child.
King said Wilkerson was being held at Police Headquarters.
News of Wilkerson's arrest shook the close-knit church to its very foundation.
More than two dozen congregants gathered in the church's humid, stifling basement last night to express their concerns and seek some sort of explanation from the Rev. Daniel Roth, Summerfield-Siloam's pastor.
The meeting started off calmly, as residents greeted each other with smiles and embraces. Roth said a short prayer and delved into the uncomfortable topic at hand.
Roth said he learned of the molestation allegations from a volunteer youth worker who had been informed Wednesday night that three teens claimed to be victims.
"We took immediate steps to ensure that no youth were with Mister Wilkerson that evening," Roth said, adding that Wilkerson has been fired.
Wilkerson had been a member of the church for several years but was hired as a youth minister in January, Roth said.
His duties included working with the choir, organizing movie nights and counseling some teens, said a fellow youth minister, who didn't want to be identified.
Before Wilkerson was hired, Roth said, the church completed a state criminal background check and a child-abuse clearance.
Roth admitted during the meeting that Wilkerson had previously been convicted of receiving stolen property. Wilkerson had also been arrested on drug charges, court records show.
Ironically, Roth said, Wilkerson attended a July 21 seminar the church held on sexual- abuse prevention.
Church officials last night promised counseling for everyone in attendance, but the meeting soon dissolved as tension, frustration and emotional pain took hold.
"I don't forgive this guy for what he did!" shouted one man, while his young daughter sat sobbing next to him.
"I'm fearful that one day she's going to tell me that, 'Yeah, he did touch me.' That's what I'm afraid of."
Two parents had to be separated as the heated exchanges almost escalated into a fistfight, while a number of parishioners wept in their seats.
"I hope we'll be able to understand the anger, and we'll be able to respond appropriately," Roth said in response to the angry outpouring.
An uncomfortable silence fell over the crowd, save for the humming sound of a handful of old oscillating fans.
Afterwards, about a dozen congregants continued a contentious conversation with Roth outside the church.