Church thief causes $10K worth of damage

NORTH PHILADLEPHIA (WPVI) -- A real-life Grinch broke into a North Philadelphia church before Christmas Eve services and caused $10,000 worth of damage.

"It's a shame that we have to come in on a Sunday morning and discover something like this," church member William Neal said.

The vandal, or vandals, made off with stained glass windows, antique chairs, and candelabras from the Historic Jones Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church on the 2100 block of Diamond Street.

"To take the chairs off the pulpit, stained glass windows, even the hinges off the door, is unbelievable," church member Kevin D. Lamb said.

It's believed the thief broke into the church through a side entrance.

"If you're willing to steal from God than you have no conscience," Gary Miles of Southwest Philadelphia said.

"I feel violated because we've been here for so long, a force in this community for so long, we've done a lot of community work and helped a great deal of people, and to see this happen is really sad," Marsha Johnson of Germantown said.

The setback hasn't dampened the Christmas spirit of those who worship at the church.

"You can take the stained glass windows, but you're not going to take my praise!" Lamb said during the service.

"There's no way we cancel services, especially behind this," Valorie Perason of Fairhill said.

"I pray for those who broke in. One thing you have to realize is when you steal from God, God's going to work it out," Reverend John Clinton Reynolds, Jr. said.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, the pastor says those behind the lawlessness are already forgiven.

There is no word on when or how the church will replace the stolen items.

Church officials say it isn't about the monetary value of the items that were stolen, but the sentimental value that can't be replaced.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

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