Lead thieves caught by prayer but judged by love

by Michael Ford last modified 02 Oct, 2019 09:54 AM

A group of lead thieves got an unwelcome surprise when a prayer group interrupted their illegal endeavours.

Lead thieves caught by prayer but judged by love

Original photo courtesy St James' Church Devizes on Facebook

A Facebook post from the Church revealed:

"I bet our visitors regret attempting to lift the lead off St James church at 2.30am this morning - what with me and another church member being inside praying as part of the church's 24 hr knife amnesty prayer vigil. A 999 call and 3 minutes later the two were nicked, caught lead-handed."

But the decision to hold the prayer meeting in the Church was made very late in the day, as the Revd Dr Keith Brindle, Vicar at St James, Southbroom, Devizes, explains:

"In the 3.5 years I've been at St James, last night was the first overnight vigil held in the church. Up until a few hours before we were planning to do the the vigil somewhere else, but then decided to do it in church instead.

"If the person who was partnering with me in prayer hadn't arrived 30 minutes earlier than they were supposed to, the thieves would have long gone.

"Prayer... what a mysterious and wonderful thing it is!"

While the thieves were caught in the act, they had already rolled up the lead and so the area of the roof they attacked will still need to be replaced.

But the story didn't end there. Keith felt it important that our Christian principles of love and compassion should be prominent:

"In my incident report to the police I have asked to see the two people involved in the attempted theft to undertake restorative justice.

"Given the chance I will of course explain to them the hassle caused and level of damage they have done, but mostly I want to hear their story and I hope I have the courage to share with them something of God's compassion and love."

And Keith wanted that compassion and love to be shared throughout his congregation:

"By Sunday morning my post on Facebook about the incident had had a lot of traction, with a huge number of likes, shares and comments. Not all the comments have been good and some have been deeply offensive about the thieves - some feel the need to express what type of people they think the thieves are and what should be done to them.

"Without knowing who the thieves are, some have been quick to jump to unhelpful stereotype. At our two services at St James on Sunday morning, I shared with the church family my sadness about these comments and we agreed that we would not 'like' them when they appeared on Facebook, we would not agree with them, nor would we post similar unfounded and unhelpful comments.

"How we respond to such things on social media speaks in a really visible way to everyone else about how little or how much the good news of Jesus' forgiveness has actually impacted our thinking, our hearts and our online profiles."

But the foiled theft wasn't the only bit of good news the Church had recently.

"The knife amnesty and its success is for St James the bigger story," Keith says.

"Our outreach worker Rob spearheaded this collaboration with Wiltshire Police and he got other churches in the Diocese involved. The police can't fully believe the success of the collaboration, with the number of knives binned at the churches being significant, and the willingness of Christians to make it happen has been a great testimony."

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