For the past eight years, the Rev. John E. Chung served as one of the top ministers at Boston’s historic Park Street Church, deploying missionaries around the globe while delivering sermons on the importance of service.
But his tenure ended abruptly last week when he resigned after his arrest stemming from a peeping Tom incident near his Brookline home. What’s more, neighbors told police it wasn’t the first such incident involving the 39-year-old minister.
Just before 10 p.m. on June 23, police responded to a call from one of Chung’s neighbors, who said he saw Chung “hunched over and peering into his bedroom window” where his girlfriend was changing, according to an arrest report filed in Brookline District Court.
The neighbor yelled at Chung, who then apologized “profusely” and told the neighbor “that he has a problem,” according to the police report.
Chung was arraigned the next day on a trespassing charge and posted $500 bail, according to court records.
He has not entered a plea in the case, said David Traub, spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey.
Chung did not respond to phone calls or messages left at his home. The lawyer who represented Chung at his arraignment last week also did not respond to requests for comment.
In an announcement sent to congregants last week, senior minister Gordon Hugenberger said the church had received a letter of resignation from Chung on June 25, and it was immediately accepted.
“We pray for God’s comfort and healing, not only for John and his family, but also for all who have been disappointed and deeply hurt by this tragic circumstance,” Hugenberger said in the announcement.
The neighbor who called police told investigators that he had warned Chung in the past to stay off his property after watching him look into neighbors’ windows and had seen him walk up at least three driveways that night with his dog.
In June 2012, a different neighbor called police and said she saw Chung in her driveway after her daughter heard someone outside her bedroom window, according to a police report. Chung appeared in Brookline District Court on a trespassing charge, but the case was dismissed in April this year and Chung paid $100 in court costs, records show.
The evangelical and congregational church overlooking Boston Common, founded in 1809, is known for its rich history and has taken to calling itself the “church of firsts.”
Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first major public antislavery address from the Park Street pulpit on July 4, 1829. The church also started the first prison ministry and animal humane society in the country.
Chung joined the church in 2005 as the minister of missions, taking over a storied tradition of deploying missionaries around the world, said Walter Kim, an associate minister at the church. It currently has staff missionaries in Cameroon, the Middle East, Thailand, and South Africa, among other nations, according to its website.
In May, Chung and other church members biked from Baltimore to Boston to raise funds for AIDS prevention work in Indonesia in partnership with World Relief, a religious nonprofit that provides humanitarian aid and disaster relief to countries around the world.
Until his arrest, Chung sat on the board of World Relief.
“Following the events of last week, John Chung immediately tendered his resignation from the board, which we accepted,” said Amy Lucia, a senior vice president at the nonprofit.Javier Panzar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@jpanzar.