Former Baptist pastor tries to pick up pieces of his life after scandal rocks his marriage

Worshippers attend Sunday service at the Crossgates Baptist Church in Mississippi. Paul Hand used to be a part of this church.(Facebook/Crossgates Baptist Church)

People tend to look up to their pastors and consider them as the pillars of Christianity and goodness within their communities. Because of this high level of respect, it can get pretty devastating whenever pastors get involved in scandals.

Paul Hand is one such pastor. In 2014, the husband and father of two got emotionally involved with his ministry assistant and was forced to resign from Crossgates Baptist Church in Brandon, Mississippi because of it.

Hand became a part of the church with a congregation of 5,000 back in 2011. He was previously a commercial insurance agent before he received the calling to minister to people. His wife, Melinda—who was then already involved in Crossgates—helped him get a job there. At the same time, he also enrolled in seminary courses.

Hand told Religion News Service that he happily took on the new calling "all the while going to school full time, being a dad and husband and all those other things."

"I loved pastoring people, but it was overwhelming," he said. When Melinda started experiencing heart problems because of stress, things got too difficult for Hand. He began confiding to his assistant and found himself developing some feelings for her.

Hand and his assistant said they never got physically involved, but they felt so guilty about their inappropriate relationship that they were eventually compelled to confess it to their respective spouses.

"I told my wife I had not guarded my heart and that I had fallen in love with my assistant. And Melinda just looked at me and said: 'I'm not going to let you do that. I love you. I'm willing to fight for you,'" said Hand.

At first, Hand sought individual and marriage counselling. He began the difficult path towards restoration, but it did not come without its share of sacrifices. After a couple of weeks, he decided to quit Crossgates. "I needed to," he said.

Even though Hand is now getting help for his mistake, there is no guarantee that he will reclaim his former position in church. "I wanted to be back in a similar position, [but] I guess [I have to] to prove that I could do it and I could do it well and I could manage the stress," he said.