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Schuylkill County church damaged by copper thieves forced to cancel Sunday services

By Jamie Stover, Reporter, JStover@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:34:16 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 11 2013 10:13:33 AM CST

Copper thieves target historic church

TAMAQUA, Pa. -

The Primitive Methodist Church in Tamaqua is the oldest church of its kind in the country.

But it closed its doors to worshipers on Sunday, days after it was ransacked by thieves. Members said there was no running water or heat on Sunday.

Over the years, it has closed for things like inclement weather, but cancellations are few and far between.

"It doesn't happen often. Hopefully people went elsewhere to worship," said Judy Hall, the pastor's wife.

Members of the Primitive Methodist Church said thieves broke through a basement window before stealing copper materials. A neighbor told Hall that a U-Haul truck was parked in a nearby alley the night of the incident.

Hall opened up the church on Wednesday to provide a woman and her two children with clothing. The first clue was the unlocked front door.

But Hall soon realized that was just the beginning. Food wrappers all over the floor indicated an unwelcome guest had been there.

After walking into the kitchen, Hall's eyes drifted to the freezers.

"Two of the freezers were open. There were dirty hand prints. I discovered meat had been stolen. I went over to the house and got my husband to come over," Hall said.

Nearly 200 pounds of meat, intended for the needy this holiday season, were gone.

Hall and her husband soon realized there was more to see downstairs.

"We went downstairs together. We discovered the pipes were cut out from virtually every place there was possible," Hall said.

According to Hall, there are also indicators as to who may be responsible.

"Some people that had come through, and had expressed interest and notice the pipes and that kind of thing. The police are following up," Hall said.

According to Hall, repairs could take until the end of next week. Crews are busy replacing copper and restoring utilities to the building.

In the meantime, church members aren't wasting any time being angry.

"It was a senseless act. The Bible says to forgive," said Jack Brode, a member of the church.

But members are in disbelief. Hall said the church is a second home to families who go there.

"Some people have raised their families here," Hall said.

"My parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great-great parents have all been members," Brode said.

Even though she is hurt and shocked, Hall is keeping a positive attitude.

"Good will come out of it," Hall said.

Hall said the church does a lot of good for the community, especially recently.

" We've been helping a lot more people lately, with cuts in food stamps," Hall said.

Members believe the good will continue.

"We shall overcome," Brode said.