Royden Wood trial: Breast fondling greeting recalled

It seemed like unusual behaviour inside a church.

The adolescent girls who attended the now-defunct Ambassador Baptist Church had come up with “the Ambassador handshake,” a woman at the trial of the former senior pastor Royden Wood said yesterday.

It comprised of three parts.

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“Handshake,” they’d say, and shake hands.

“Man-shake,” they’d say, and grab their hands with thumbs locked.

“Milkshake,” they’d say, and grab each other’s breasts.

Six years ago, said the 20-year-old woman, whose identity is protected by court order, the three-part “handshake” was common in the main sanctuary of the church.

So was coming up behind a girl and undoing their bra.

“It was very funny to do it to me because I am a larger girl,” she said.

And twice, she said, she had her bra lifted at the front by Wood.

Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges — 10 involving alleged assaults on three boys between 1985 and 1987 when they were under a “self-control” program devised by Wood when they were students at the church’s alternative school.

The other three charges –two of sexual assault and one of sexual interference — involved two of the female witnesses yesterday.

One of them testified to having her breast touched by Wood, then having him comment on its size, during conversation.

The 20-year-old was a life-long member of the church and was close to Woods until her parents decided to leave the church.

She described being 14 and standing with her mother in the main sanctuary of the church speaking to Wood and his wife.

“Don’t move,” he told the girl, then put his finger under her bra and lifted it over her breasts.

“I didn’t move,” she said. “I didn’t know what he was going to do.”

She said she didn’t react. She turned around and put herself back together.

“I think we left shortly after,” and added she didn’t think much more about it.

Two years later, after the family had left the congregation when she was 16, Wood visited their home.

On his way out, she said, she went to give him a goodbye hug when he said, “Don’t move.”

She said he lifted her bra and said, “Look, two sets.”

She said she laughed, but told assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk she wouldn’t consent to that activity.

She said she never discussed the event with anyone until she talked about it with her mother.

She told Kierluk her mother and siblings were sad to leave Ambassador in 2003. Her father made the decision to leave the congregation.

She said they knew “in no time no one would talk to us.”

When they attended other churches, she said, it was “nice to have someone not come up and undo your bra or comment on your breast size.”

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