There was another robbery at St. Alban’s last Sunday. Cash was stolen from the purses of two acolytes during the 11:15 service. The purses were in a locked closet in the locked vesting room. Unfortunately this is not a new experience, either at St. Alban’s or elsewhere. As a member of a choir in Arlington I was robbed, along with every other choir members, during an evening rehearsal when we left the choir room for a short time to rehearse with the organ. Many people suspected a member of a Boy Scout troop that met in the building, but there was insufficient basis to bring an accusation.
Another theft was of a purse that was on the wainscoting in the Trenbath room in front of the middle window on the north wall. It was somehow taken while a large crowd was assembled saying farewell to one of our clergy. I found the purse the next day on the south steps to the rectory porch, missing all the valuables, of course.
Our lectern microphones have been stolen twice. And injury was added to insult on one of the thefts when the microphone mount was broken off, requiring some carpentry work.
On another occasion I came into the chancel on a Friday afternoon and met the Bishop of Ohio who was there for the rehearsal of a wedding he was to officiate. He had preceded me by a few minutes and a good thing it was, for he happened upon a man behind the altar with the altar cross in his arms, presumably about to walk out with it. He probably thought it was gold.
On another occasion while I’ve been here, there was a theft from the Sunday collection. When the locked bag was opened on Monday to prepare the deposit, all the twenties were missing. We reaffirmed our rule that no one is ever left alone with the Sunday collection; that the money has to be counted by two people; and that they cannot be members of the same family. You would not think that such precautions would be necessary with people known well enough to be entrusted with such responsibility, but sadly they are.
Because thefts during weddings are such a commonplace occurrence everywhere, one of the duties of St. Alban’s vergers at weddings and rehearsals is to be sure that the Rectory and Nourse Hall are locked if they are being used and that nothing is left unattended in the narthex or the Wade Room, including camera equipment. (Thefts from homes of bereaved family members during funerals is equally widespread, and it has long been necessary for some family members or friends not to attend the funeral and to remain at home.)
Perhaps the most shocking theft was Scott Benhase’s welcome to St. Alban’s. On his very first Sunday as Rector, he left his office open, and his laptop computer was stolen sometime during the morning..
There have been thefts of cash and credit cards from the choir vesting rooms at St. Alban’s.
I mention all this as a Daily Cup partly by way of just notifying everyone that this has happened once again, but also by way of reflecting that while one might expect and even devoutly hope that churches would be safe places, they are not. Indeed they may be targets all the more precisely because those of us who call them home have that hope and expectation.
We are a large community, welcoming to everyone. It is a shame that we have to keep a guard up, but we do, and hopefully never in ways that make us appear suspicious of everyone.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 24-September-2013.