A Fort Worth church burglarized over the weekend was hit again Monday morning. Church leaders say it's the seventh time this has happened this year. Now they're wrestling with how to stay open to the public while protecting their sacred space.
NBC 5 first covered the break-in on Saturday, when a burglar smashed through a panel of glass by the front entry. Early Monday morning a second window was smashed in and volunteers boarded up the rest.
Police are now looking for connections between the two crimes, while church leaders search for how to move forward.
"They can at least get a glimpse of holiness and peace and a safe place," said Bishop Keith Ackerman.
But now St. Timothy's beauty is walled off from the outside.
"Here's where the first break-in was. Here's where the second one was that we discovered this morning," the Bishop said, pointing to two side-by-side boarded windows.
Two break-ins in one weekend led Bishop Ackerman to board up the remaining glass, though he wants to remain open to the people of this community.
The latest news from around North Texas.
"It's the people I care most about,” the Bishop said. “I care more about their souls than about the things. And I care more about the perpetrator's soul than I care about what he's taken."
But what was taken can't be replaced. After Saturday's burglary, Bishop Ackerman showed NBC 5 six ornate candlesticks in the sanctuary. Then Monday morning, two of candlesticks were snatched away. Each one carved with the face of Jesus, the Bishop says they're priceless.
"To steal something that means so much to so many people over the years, from their baptisms, from their weddings, from their conversions," the Bishop said.
And that's not all. Bishop Ackerman suspects the same thief returned for more he could grab: from silver used for Holy Communion, to branched candelabra from a cabinet, even bowls filled with incense.
"It symbolizes the prayers of the people rising up to heaven," Ackerman said.
Their very prayers were stolen, yet Bishop Ackerman thinks only of what more his church could have offered.
"I would say to the person, if only they would keep their hands open, like this, we can fill them. When they go like this, and their hands are closed, we can't give them anything. All they get is stuff," said Bishop Ackerman. "I would surely love to be able to meet him or her so that I could pray with them."
The Bishop says there was about $9,000 worth of damage and loss at the church. His insurance deductible is $10,000, so it's all out of pocket, a big blow for a low-income congregation.
Fort Worth Police say they've only had two burglaries reported to them at the church and those are considered low-priority calls once the burglar is gone. NBC 5 did see an officer come by for a security check Monday evening.