Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral may soon step up its security system after the May 11 theft of at least $10,000 worth of historical artifacts, some dating back to the 17th century.
Officials think a thief or thieves likely hid themselves in the cathedral before its customary closing at 5:30 p.m.
The missing items include antique coins, gold and silver chalices, a communion plate and a long-handled mote spoon with a sieved bowl, used before the era of teabags to strain loose leaves from freshly brewed tea.
“It’s hard to say what the items are worth exactly, but the historical value for us and the faith dimension are far more than we can put a price on,” says the Very Rev. Dr. Logan McMenamie, rector of the cathedral and dean of Columbia.
Located in the beginning of the nave in an area reserved for selling historical items such as flags and books, the artifacts were housed in a steel and Plexiglas display case. First the thieves sawed one of the steel bars protecting the case. “Then it seems they used some sort of tool, either battery-operated or electrical, to cut out a hole in the Plexiglas, which they hit with a fist to knock it out,” McMenamie says. The blow tripped the alarm shortly before 10 p.m.
More objects were in the case, he adds, but the hole the thieves managed to cut before triggering the alarm was only large enough to reach a few items.
Police officers from the Victoria Police Department (VicPD) with K9 dogs found no one in the cathedral, but VicPD’s Forensic Identification Services analyzed the scene for evidence. VicPD also provided photos of artifacts very similar to those stolen.
“The cathedral doors have alarms, and the new part of the cathedral built in the 1980s has motion detectors, but there’s nothing in the nave, so we’re thinking of putting cameras and motion detectors in there,” says McMenamie.
“Otherwise,” says Constable Mike Russell, VicPD’s public affairs media spokesperson, “the cathedral’s alarm system actually seems pretty robust.”
Currently there are no leads on the robbery. “But thanks to Ecclesiastica, our insurance company, we were able to offer a $5,000 reward the following Monday for the recovery of the objects,” says McMenamie.
Adds Russell: “We don’t have any updates right now. We don’t know how many people were involved and don’t know if it was one or more. We have been following up with antique and gold and silver dealers throughout town and are hoping that someone will see the releases and notify us.”
McMenamie stresses, “We don’t want to give a sense of panic where we’re building fences and restrictions because we’re open every day. We’re part of Victoria’s historical section and we have 18 worship services a week.”
In fact, he sees the theft as an opportunity for witness. “I’ve used the language of healing and reconciliation. If this person went and did something that they now feel is stupid or inappropriate and wants to rectify it, we’re open to working with that.”