RANDOLPH — Members of the town’s Methodist church are still reeling a week after someone broke in and stole electronics and equipment.
Bette Seymour, administrative assistant and treasurer for the United Methodist Church, on Asbury Street, said the loss of a computer and television and other items is a financial strain on the church.
“It is extremely difficult for small churches to keep their heads above water with expenses so high these days,” Seymour said. “This is really going to put us in the hole.”
Deputy Chief Ryan Reardon of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office said the stolen items have an estimated value of $1,500. He said investigators continue to look into the burglary.
“There have been some leads produced,” Reardon said.
The break-in was discovered around 10:30 a.m. Thursday when the church’s pastor, the Rev. Tsitsi Nakoma Moyo, who lives in the parsonage next door to the church building, noticed the emergency exit door in the back of the sanctuary was open. Seymour said the burglars got into the church through a narrow window in the sanctuary. The window is some distance off the ground.
“People feel they drove out back to hide their car as well as to have something to climb up to get in that window,” Seymour said. “It couldn’t have been a very big person.”
Seymour believes the break-in occurred during the very early morning hours, around 2 a.m., and that the burglars spent considerable time inside. The bandits broke into the pastor’s office by removing the pins from the exposed hinges. The burglars then re-hung the door. The thieves unsuccessfully attempted to break into Seymour’s office by kicking down the door, which does not have exposed hinges.
“They went into every single room,” Seymour said. “All the cabinets and closet doors were wide open.”
The bandits made off with a large television used for Bible study and Moyo’s church-issued computer, as well as two choir microphones and stands and a small recorder Moyo uses to record sermons.
“They even helped themselves to some cookies in the refrigerator,” Seymour said.
The thieves also stole two brass collection plates that survived a 1962 fire that destroyed the old church building on Windsor Street.
“In my mind those are irreplaceable,” said Seymour, who has been a member of the church for 57 years.
Some of the stolen items were returned the following night and discovered Friday morning. A banner that reads, “Peace on Earth,” which had hung in the church sanctuary, as well as a small wooden cross and drums taken from the sanctuary and Moyo’s office, were all found outside the front door, Seymour said.
“When we were talking to police we didn’t even notice they were gone,” she said. “My feeling is they wanted things they could sell for drug money.”
The burglars caused no damage to the building, Seymour said, but scribbled an offensive message on a board outside Moyo’s office.
“Pray for Satan,” Seymour said. “That tells you what kind of people they were.”
The church has a registered membership of 75 people, though usually only about 45 or so show up on Sundays. Attendance is down even more during the summer when the church has taxes, insurance and other bills come due. The church’s insurance has a $1,000 deductible, so the members will likely bear most of the cost of replacing the stolen items.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “We just don’t have a cushion.”
The burglary dominated many of the conversations between members when they gathered for worship last Sunday. Moyo encouraged the people not to be angry.
“The pastor prayed for these people,” Seymour said. “She prayed whoever took the microphone would become a gospel singer and that whoever took the computer would write Bible stories. She said, ‘I won’t pray for Satan, but I will pray for these people.'”
Reardon encouraged anyone with information on the burglary to call Deputy Nathan McNally at the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office at 623-3614.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642