Canaan shocked by allegations against youth minister
By Rachel Ohm
Portland Press Herald
March 20, 2016
|Lucas Savage, 37, of Clinton, who was arrested Friday as a suspect in a child sex abuse case, is a co-director of the Youth Haven Ministry on Easy Street in Canaan, shown Saturday. |
CANAAN — Community members said Saturday that they were shocked and saddened to learn that a local youth ministry director allegedly sexually abused a young girl at his home in Clinton.Lucas Savage, 37, co-director of Youth Haven Ministry on Easy Street, is charged with unlawful sexual contact and was arrested Friday by state police.
“I trusted him with my daughter,” said Kristine Rice, a Canaan resident who said her 11-year-old daughter used to attend ministry programs at Youth Haven. Savage was also her daughter’s soccer coach through the Canaan Community Sports program, Rice said.
“I talked to him in church and he was my daughter’s soccer coach. He never gave me any indication that there was anything to be concerned about, but if police are arresting him, they must have proof. The whole thing is very sad,” said Rice, 34.
She said she and Savage both attend Canaan Calvary Church. The church has supported Youth Haven Ministry financially in the past, but the two organizations are separate and have different boards of directors, according to a news release Saturday from the church’s elder board.
The Maine Department of Public Safety originally reported Friday that Savage was a youth pastor at the church, but the statement Saturday from the church said he never has been a youth pastor there, though he is a member of the church.
“The church leadership will be doing everything in our ability to support and minister to all families involved. We are making ourselves available to anyone involved or affected by the situation,” the release said. “Our ultimate desire is to see that the truth is brought forth. That being said, we will do everything in our ability to completely cooperate with the ongoing investigation, and we hope and believe that all involved will do the same.”
Rice said of Savage that she “always thought he was a decent guy” and that she had asked her daughter since finding out about the accusations whether Savage ever made her feel uncomfortable.
“She said no, he’s always been nice. I’m in shock over the whole thing,” she said.
Others in Canaan, though, said that at times Savage did make them feel uneasy. Matthew Clark, who lives next door to the ministry building on Easy Street, said that while he didn’t know Savage well, he “seemed a little different.”
“He just acted differently. But everyone has their own thing I guess,” Clark said.
Jessica Howe, another member of the Calvary Church, said she knew Savage from church. Howe, 34, also has children, but they do not attend the ministry program.
Howe said she isn’t sure how many members of the church are reacting, given that the news of Savage’s arrest was so recent, but she added that “you don’t expect something like that to happen so close to home.”
“I just saw the post last night and I thanked the Lord it wasn’t my kids,” she said. “I don’t think he would be happy if he came after my kids.”
Founded in 1987 by Brian and Kim Demers at their home in Palmyra, Youth Haven Ministry provides several free programs for children and teens, according to the organization’s website, including weekly kids’ and teen hangouts and a girls’ cooking class that “combines the joys of cooking with a great Bible lesson to allow us to grow in the Lord together.”
The organization incorporated as a nonprofit in 2000 and relocated in 2001 to the former Canaan Christian School on Easy Street. It has a six-person board of directors and a staff of five people, including Savage and his wife.
Kern Savage, president of the board, could not be reached for comment Saturday. Ron Dorman, vice president, declined to comment.
“I hope somebody will take charge of it, because it’s still a great program,” Howe said. “It’s a place where the children can go to learn about the Lord. Somebody has to be out there that can do it.”
Rice also said that while the allegations are shocking, she hopes it won’t hurt the church. “When someone it associated with a church, you’re supposed to be able to take your kids there and they’re supposed to be safe,” she said. “There are so many great people at the church who have helped me in so many ways, so many people with great hearts. I don’t know how this will affect them.”