Thieves have left Sutton Bridge parish church “desecrated” after a break-in which left an estimated repair bill of £10,000.
About £1,000 in cash, as well as a laptop and smartphone, were stolen from St Matthew’s Church in Bridge Road during a burglary that took place just hours after a christening service had taken place on Sunday.
The Reverend David Oxtoby, vicar of Sutton Bridge, described the burglary where a gang smashed a porch window, ripped open a safe and ransacked cupboards inside the church as “quite devastating”.
Mr Oxtoby said: “We had a Sunday service at 9.30am and a christening at 1pm, the last event that took place in the church before it was locked up at about 3.30pm.
“I arrived at 9.30am yesterday to lead a Bible study group and discovered that someone had smashed a leaded glass window to pieces inside the porch, before opening every cupboard in the church.
“It was quite dramatic because of the mess they made, but the worst scene was in the vestry which looked like a bomb had gone off.
For people to desecrate this church and destroy the space is something quite devastating because the church is the spiritual heart of the community, as well as the social heart of itThe Reverend David Oxtoby, Vicar of Sutton Bridge and Tydd St Mary
“They ripped the safe apart to gain access to the money and valuable artefacts.
“They took at least £1,000 in cash and at least £1,000 worth of electrical items.
“I don’t know whether any silverware or other artefacts have been taken, nor how much damage they’ve caused to the doors and locks which were all broken.
“But in total, we’re up to between £5,000 and £10,000.”
The church burglary followed reports of a similar break-in at the former Royal British Legion Club in Gas House Lane, Sutton Bridge, although this has not yet been confirmed by Lincolnshire Police.
Mr Oxtoby said: “I think the church break-in was more than a one-man job because they gained access to huge parts of the church.
“I’ve been here for four years and for people to desecrate this church and destroy the space is something that’s never happened in my time before.
“It’s quite devastating because the church is the spiritual heart of the community, as well as the social heart of it.
“We’ve got Holy Communion on Thursday and a wedding on Saturday, so everything will continue as normal.
“You don’t stop being the church in the community just because somebody has stolen things from it.”
• Councillors in Sutton Bridge have reacted with dismay to news of the burglary at St Matthew’s Church over the weekend.
Coun Michael Booth, of Sutton Bridge Parish Council and South Holland District Council, said: “I’m appalled that such a thing could happen, not just because it’s a church but because of the spate of things happening in Sutton Bridge.
“There was a break in at the Royal British Legion Club as well and I’m deeply shocked about it.”
Parish, district and county councillor Chris Brewis said: “I’m sorry that this has happened but it’s funny how these things seem to happen in phases.
“I would urge people to keep their eyes and ears open for everybody’s benefit because the only thing that will stop it is evidence and someone being prosecuted.”
• Anyone with information should call 101, quoting incident number 120 of August 4.