Vandals who broke into a church in Londonderry are believed to have used smashed bottles of altar wine to damage the organ there.
Stained glass windows at Christ Church were also smashed during the incident, while a bible was flung into the sanctuary. A communion decanter was also stolen.
The break-in was discovered by a member of the Church of Ireland parish team who called to the church on Infirmary Road on Tuesday evening.
Police were alerted and scenes of crime officers carried out a detailed forensic search of the building.
The Archdeacon of Londonderry, Ven. Robert Miller, who is Rector of the Christ Church, Culmore, Muff and Saint Peter’s Group of Parishes, said the incident had upset the lady who made the discovery and would cause distress, too, to members of the congregation who worship at Christ Church.
“The worst of the damage was inflicted on the church organ,” Archdeacon Miller said.
“We believe those responsible broke into the church through one of the stained glass windows, and then smashed a panel behind the organ, where its inner workings are housed.
“They climbed in behind the organ and used broken glass – probably from bottles of altar wine which they’d smashed – to cut parts of the mechanism which makes the organ work.”
Archdeacon Miller said a decanter, which was used in communion services, had been stolen during the break-in.
The tear-shaped, glass decanter had been presented to the church by former parishioners who would be deeply upset to learn of its theft.
The intruders smashed several windows, knocked over vases of flowers, and removed a bible from the lectern and flung it into the church sanctuary.
“The police have yet to establish a definite motive,” the Rector said, “but it appears to have been a case of wanton vandalism. It will be a real trauma for parishioners who worship here and for our neighbours across the road at St Eugene’s, with whom we have the most wonderful relationship.”
Archdeacon Miller said the organ was likely to be out of action for a considerable period of time.
“Our church organist was heartbroken when he saw the extent of the damage. The instrument was installed in the year 2000, four years after the previous organ had been destroyed in a fire. So, this latest act of vandalism has come as a severe blow to us.
“As news has spread of what’s happened, though, we’ve already been offered support from the local community and from friends further afield. It will come as a great comfort to our parishioners to know that they aren’t alone.”
The Bishop of Londonderry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, visited Christ Church within minutes of learning of the break-in.
“This is a very disturbing incident,” Bishop Good said. “It is sacrilege and I feel deeply for the parishioners of Christ Church who will be dismayed when they learn of the break-in.
“I can assure them that the people who would perpetrate such an outrage are small in number and in no way represent the vast, vast majority in our community who want to live in peace and harmony. I appeal to the wider community to pray for the congregation of Christ Church and I urge anyone with information about this crime to give it to the PSNI.”