Worshipers claim “Welcome All” church does not live up to its name

Some worshipers at Welcome All Baptist Church said they got the cold shoulder Easter Sunday when they claimed they were locked out of their own sanctuary.

Some two dozen attendees stood outside with reporters at 10 a.m. to condemn how the Woodstock church’s disputed pastor Willard Hamrick spent its money. A “No Trespassing” sign hung on Welcome All’s door and the parking lot gate stood locked.

“He is not the pastor here, we have a new one we voted in … he needs to give us our church back,” said Eva Henderson, Hamrick’s leading critic, told Channel 2 Action News. She filed suit against him in Cherokee County Superior Court.

Willard Hamrick’s son Keith Hamrick, who identified himself as head trustee of Welcome All Baptist Church, said the splinter group’s accusations are false, and they did not use proper procedures to vote his father out.

The day of the Lord’s resurrection was no time for a public kvetch, Keith Hamrick told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Jesus wouldn’t have called the news media,” he said. Willard Hamrick held the church’s official Easter services at 6 a.m., Keith Hamrick said.

Sunday’s row was the latest in a long dispute over control of the tiny church and its finances. The split is so deep that neither side can agree on who runs the church or belongs to it.

The discord began with the great floods of 2009, Keith Hamrick said. Within the span of four days, winds tore off the church’s roof and water flooded its rooms.

Henderson, who contends she is church treasurer, filed suit three days after Christmas 2012, saying Willard Hamrick failed to tell his flock about some two-thirds of the $46,000 they received to rebuild. Keith Hamrick said church leadership showed her and others checks for all of the money they spent.

Henderson said Willard Hamrick was voted out as pastor. Keith Hamrick said she and other critics were voted off the membership rolls.

Critics said they were locked out the week before Christmas. Keith Hamrick contends that naysayers changed the locks on them, too.

Henderson also caused a man-made flood last month when she had the electricity shut off, Keith Hamrick said. This switched off pumps that keep the building dry. Mold now covers the church’s interior.

“If my dad was such a bad person, would she have him preach at her husband’s funeral?” Keith Hamrick said.

The suit seeks to have Willard Hamrick removed as pastor, full access to church property, and damages for “mental anguish,” among other things.

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