NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The search is on for a group of vandals who ripped apart a century-old church in the Bronx. As a result, its reopening, since the coronavirus pandemic, has been further delayed.
The pastor at Creston Avenue Baptist Church was very emotional. She was preparing to reopen the doors for limited capacity service next week, but now she says that likely won’t happen. There are too many repairs and they are out thousands of dollars and equipment needed to operate, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported exclusively Thursday.
Pastor Marcia Stanley showed CBS2 her ransacked office — broken drawers, and an empty desk where her computer sat before it was stolen by thieves. Police said an unknown number of people broke into the church on East 188th Street and Preston Avenue early Tuesday morning.
“They messed up my office, broke up the safe, break up the doors, break up the kitchen. What could possess them to do things like that? … Can’t they see this is the house of God?” Stanley said.
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Church staff captured these surveillance images of the suspects, showing at least 4 people making off with computers, bags and other equipment.
Police say the suspects came in through a back door, smashing and kicking down at least eight doors to get into all of the rooms. Church staff say the thieves stole six Mac computers, all their audio equipment, and damaged endless property, totaling at least $10,000 in damage.
“It’s devastating. I think this is the first time we have been vandalized like this,” Sharon Stanley said.
Sharon Stanley has been a member of the church for 40 years. She said their holy space wasn’t just vandalized; it was disrespected. She said someone had the audacity to defecate in the front foyer.
“You can’t believe someone would come inside the house of God,” Sharon Stanley said.
Creston Baptist Church is a pillar in the community, providing groceries to those in need through a food pantry program and soup kitchen. Since COVID-19, the church says people lining up for for the services has quadrupled.
Despite what happened, those programs will start up again Friday.
“The church gives to the community tenfold. If they would’ve came and asked for food, clothing, whatever we have in there, we often have,” treasurer Emeka Oseafiana said.
Speaking to the vandals, Pastor Marcia Stanley said if anyone needed help, they could have just asked.
“Hoping the people in the community will provide some form of information to police,” she said.
Congregants started a GoFundMe page, hoping to help replace what was stolen. Church members have been cleaning for the last two days, trying to prepare to reopen. They said if there was ever a time church service and prayers are needed, it’s now.