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Reading parish forgives church burglar

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, @CatherineH_WFMZ, chawley@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 20 2014 05:03:00 PM CDT

Parish forgives burglar

READING, Pa. -

At Holy Trinity Church of God in Reading, Easter was a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

This week, the congregation is also celebrating the end of a criminal investigation.

"We did pray and ask God to let this person be caught," explained Minister Robert Walker Sr.

Police arrested 18-year-old Stephen Phillips on Thursday after the Reading man admitted he burglarized Holy Trinity, St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Reading and Trinity United Church of Christ in Mount Penn.

"It was sad that someone would break into a church to steal," said parishioner Joshua Wilder.

According to church leaders, Phillips forced his way inside and then broke a window to get into an office. Once inside the office, they say Phillips ransacked it, then swiped $40.

"Hopefully he'll learn from this, grow from this and come out better because of this," added finance elder Jay Gibson.

Everyone we spoke with at Holy Trinity said we all make mistakes, and it's time to move forward. They had nothing but messages of love for Phillips.

"We believe in reconciliation," said Minister Dan Moore. "And I believe that this is a teaching moment for the church, and I believe this is a test in time for Christians to really show forth who they are."

"God is a God of forgiveness, so we do forgive him and we want to see him prosper," added Walker.

"There is help for him and there is hope for him," Wilder shared. "We have prayed for him and we love him, he can reconcile."

Phillips is being held at Berks County Prison. He faces burglary, criminal trespassing and other charges.