FREEHOLD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A congregation is heartbroken after thieves severely damaged a treasured part of its church.
For more than 50 years, the organ inside First United Methodist Church has been the soundtrack to weddings, baptisms, and ceremonies in Freehold.
It’s why Pastor Wil Wilson and his congregation were so devastated to find their sanctuary in a state of ruin Thursday. Their organ and the decorative pipes covering the instrument were desecrated by thieves.
“You are just kind of left with the shock of what am I looking at right now,” Wilson told CBS2’s Christina Fan.
“We have people who their whole life has been lived out with that organ as part of the background of their home, their church home, and it’s been badly damaged. Looking at the pictures I think shook them up a great deal,” added resident Jane Healton.
Police are still searching for the suspects behind the break-in Tuesday evening. The congregation believes the thieves intended to steal the pipes for scrap metal and slipped in through a compromised door. For some reason the suspects left empty-handed, but the damage was done.
“It was a big part of the history of this place. This is an historical church and we are going to grieve for the loss of that history,” Wilson said.
Organ builder Alan Binger felt devastated by the damage.
“I almost didn’t want to come and look at it,” he said. “I was afraid of what I was going to see.”
The congregation believes the thieves were either injured by the falling pipes or they realized the scrap metal they were trying to steal actually isn’t worth anything.
“There are some erroneous beliefs of what organ pipes are made out of. The smaller ones are made out of an alloy of lead and tin, which isn’t particularly valuable, just pennies on the pound,” Binger said.
Even though the organ is playing, completely repairing it may take up to a year.
The cost of the damage is still unknown, but several of the decorative and organ pipes need to be replaced. Members of the congregation said they have a message for the culprits.
“We forgive you and can we help you? Because the person didn’t do this because it was his chosen activity. This was something, desperation,” Healton said.
Members of the congregation said when they gather for their weekly Sunday service this weekend, forgiveness will be in their hearts.