Historic church gates stolen in North Philadelphia

March 15, 2013 3:02:42 PM PDT
Philadelphia police are investigating a theft that has church members upset.

Iron gates dating back more a century were stolen overnight.

The deacons and pastor of St. Mark Outreach Baptist Church gathered outside their 131-year-old building Friday to ponder a painful symbolic loss.

The building was constructed in 1882. It was a Quaker meeting hall. It is surrounded by a tall, wrought iron fence, easily well over 100 years old.

So, too, was the majestic gate that was here until overnight. Someone stole it, ripped it right off the hinges.

The deacons discovered the theft Friday morning.

"This morning Deacon Taylor and I came here to get the paperwork because we were going up to the food bank to get the canned goods for the community," said Deacon Willie Zukie. "And Deacon Taylor asked me, 'Is that front gate open?' And I said, 'I don't know. It shouldn't be.' And we came walking down and we found out it was gone."

"This was a strong gate, to tell you the truth," said Deacon Willie Taylor. "I don't think any regular people could do it. It must have taken something mighty powerful to tear that off, to do something like that."

The church's 79-year-old pastor runs youth programs here, Sunday services, mid-week Bible study and distributes food to the needy.

Her faith is a little shaken this day.

"I can't believe it," said Rev. Beatrice Streeter. "With all I try to do to help the neighborhood, the people, give them food and donations and having programs for them and all that. It just hurts me so bad. I'm devastated."

Police are still looking for the thieves. They think the gate was stolen by some scoundrels and taken to a shady scrap yard and sold to feed a drug habit.

Rev. Streeter says folks at the church will continue their mission to serve Jesus Christ the way they say their Savior would want them to.