January 8, 2017

St. Stephen Presbyterian Church cancels Sunday services after vandals break windows, trash rooms

St. Stephen Presbyterian Church's education building was damaged by vandals. (Garrett Podell/TCU360)

St. Stephen Presbyterian Church's education building was damaged by vandals. (Garrett Podell/TCU360)

Sunday was not the usual day of worship at  St. Stephen Presbyterian Church, after vandals broke windows, trashed rooms and attempted to start a fire over night.

St. Stephen Vandalism Package from TCU Student Media on Vimeo.

“This is the first time this has ever happened to us, and I have no idea what their motive could be,” said the Rev. Dr. Frederick Ritsch III, the church’s senior pastor.

Most of the damage occurred in the education building.

Plants and wreaths were knocked over at the entrance of St. Stephen Presbyterian Church. (Garrett Podell/TCU360)

Plants and wreaths were knocked over at the entrance of St. Stephen Presbyterian Church. (Garrett Podell/TCU360)

“Windows are broken in every room, and stuff was thrown all throughout the parking lot, soda, equipment, and they trashed up the entire inside,” said Beth Fultz, director of Christian Education. “A fire was started or was attempted to begin in the kitchen area.”

Fort Worth police are investigating.

“Apparently, they tried to start a fire, so this is being investigated as an arson,” Ritsch said. “Beyond that, we are awaiting the police report, and we’re very grateful for the tremendous support we’ve received.”

The vandalism was discovered by one of the church’s senior members, he said.

“There was something weird with the alarm system and a dedicated church member got up and saw it on his computer,” Ritsch said. “When he went to see what was going on, he apparently surprised one of the vandals in the act, but the vandal got away. At least he was stopped.”

Ritsch said there is reason to believe there were possibly multiple vandals. The church hopes to recover video footage of the incident, he added.

The church canceled morning services because of the police investigation, a vigil was held at 4 p.m. instead.

“We’ve had to pray expressing sadness over what happened and gratitude for all the good things we have and how grateful we are for the community support,” Ritsch said.

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