Advent is a time of many things. Watchfulness is one, and perhaps in more ways than you might have thought. You might know that sinking feeling when you approach your car after a movie or dinner out and see a window smashed in. I felt it when I was sitting at the desk in the vestry two Sundays ago and noticed that one of two notebook computers that was there earlier in the morning was no longer there. My mind in rapid succession ran through various reasons for its absence, and then with the input of more observations, such as its power cord still being there but the power cord missing from the computer that was still there, arrived at the only conclusion – another theft.
As thefts go, this was less of a loss than the previous thefts of cash from the purses of two women on another Sunday morning a few months ago while they were serving as acolytes or on another Sunday a couple of years ago of cash from two women’s purses in the choir dressing room. The stolen computer is newer than the one that was not taken and probably looked the more desirable of the two. It was lighter, smaller and more easily concealable. It was a new small sleek Lenovo netbook that was given to St. Alban’s. I wasn’t using if for anything yet, but I intended it for connecting to our projector to show videos at forums and other presentation events. The thief is probably finding it useless since the wrong power cord was taken and the battery is dead, the wireless component isn’t functioning, and it has no optical drive.
There being no significant financial loss and no operational impact, this serves mainly as a cautionary tale and a reminder, not to be suspicious, but to be aware. What distresses me most is just that someone would do this in the first place. This computer theft could have been by a stranger because the door to the vestry was not locked that morning. But the previous thefts of cash from women’s purses probably were not by strangers because the purses were in locked rooms. The combinations were known to many, many people, being common to many other such locks in the building. (They have since been made unique.)
If I thought for one minute that these incidents were isolated to St. Alban’s I would not write about them. But I know that every church has similar tales to tell. Indeed, the only time I’ve personally been robbed like this was in a church. I was singing in a choir and during an evening rehearsal we all left the choir room for about 15 minutes to rehearse part of a piece with the organ. On returning to the choir room one woman noticed her purse not as she had left it. She discovered she had been robbed, and then we all did. A member of a Scout troop that met in the building was suspected by some, but in the absence of any evidence no accusations were made.
I’m not quite sure which prayer in the Book of Common Prayer is the best one to close with, but perhaps this one “For the Parish.”
“Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heard and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 9-December-2014.