WILKES-BARRE -- Sitting on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, the Messiah Lutheran Church is a hidden gem.
With glowing stained glass windows and soaring arches, the building dates back to 1901. In all that time, no one can recall a burglar breaking in. Until now.
"How could you? You don't do this to a church," said church member Della Schulz.
Thursday, Reverend Mary Laufer got a call from the church's organist telling her someone had bashed in one of the stained glass windows, and then took what they could.
"They chose to break in the stained glass window rather than the clear glass below," said Rev. Laufer.
The burglars took keys, speakers, coins for the poor, lighters, and even cans of three-year-old soda. They left behind the ladder and hatchet they used to break in.
The pastor is philosophical about the losses.
"The speakers were stolen and it's like they are trying to silence the church, silence God, but God will not be silenced."
The timing of the break-in seems cruel. The church is being sold. The congregation is dissolving, the pastor is retiring, and the last service is September 15.
Still, the Reverend Laufer says she would welcome the culprits into her sanctuary.
"I would invite whoever did this to come and find love in the church, God's love."
Because, while this may be the end of an era, she says it's never too late to forgive.
"We are called to forgive, in the Lord's Prayer, Lord, forgive me my sins as I forgive others, so the anger is no more."
Wilkes-Barre police are investigating the break-in at Messiah Lutheran Church on South Main Street.
Later this month, Moving River Ministries, a non-denominational group, is scheduled to move in.