March 4, 2010

Church burglary has a graceful ending

DAVID HENCH

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Pastor Frank Siciliano sees no less than the hand of God at work in his church's recovery of its stolen music equipment.

A worker who opened the Park Avenue Church of God at 10 a.m. Friday found that someone had stolen the church ensemble's equipment and ransacked the building at 28 Park Ave.

By suppertime, Siciliano was carting the stuff back into the vestry and the alleged thief was behind bars.

''It was almost surreal,'' the pastor said. ''Lots of times you may get the perpetrator, but you rarely get the goods back, so God was in it.''

Siciliano said the discovery of the theft was unsettling.

His office had been broken into and somebody had tried to crack open a large safe in the basement, which is empty.

But the church's $1,000 mixing board, the essence of its sound system, was gone, along with a bass guitar, an amplifier and a high-hat cymbal assembly.

''It's kind of a brazen thing to go into the church and steal stuff,'' Siciliano said. ''If you are going to rob someone, the last person you want to rob is God.''

The pastor checked with the leaders of the Worship Team, the church music group that had been practicing the night before, but they knew nothing about what had happened. One of the group's leaders, Jason Mercier, called pawn shops to alert them to the theft.

One of those shops was Guitar Grave on Congress Street. The owner, Mike Fink, took down the information and, sure enough, somebody showed up trying to sell a Peavey mixing board just before closing time.

Workers stalled the man, feigning that they couldn't get the equipment working, until police arrived.

Police charged Peter Hoyt, 38, of 50 Wilmot St. with burglary in the church break-in.

They also charged him with violating bail conditions from his arrest Sept. 1 in the theft of a purse from The Front Room restaurant.

''I've seen his picture from the police lineup. I've never seen him at church,'' Siciliano said. ''That doesn't mean he hasn't come.''

Hoyt apparently sold the bass guitar and amplifier at the store that morning, although the brand name was different from the one in the description, Fink said.

He said it feels good to help police solve a theft from a church.

Help may be on the way for Hoyt and his understanding of the Eighth Commandment (''Thou shalt not steal'').

''We prayed for this guy Sunday morning,'' Siciliano said. ''We prayed that God would save him and straighten his life out.

''I e-mailed a lot of churches, and lots of the e-mails came back: 'We're praying for this guy.' He's getting a lot of prayer for him and his soul he would not have received,'' Siciliano said.

''There's something good happening here on a lot of different levels.''

Including a bonus for the church: Guitar Grave repaired loose connections on both the guitar and the amplifier, so they work better now.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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