Plant City church loses ‘priceless’ historic records in theft

| September 20, 2010

PLANT CITY – If the weekly offering had been taken, the break-in at First Presbyterian Church of Plant City wouldn't have been so heartbreaking.

But the loss was of something much more cherished: records that document decades of church history.

A register with such information as marriages, funerals and baptisms disappeared along with the small safe where the book was stored. The official and historical record of First Presbyterian is gone almost on the eve of the church's 125th anniversary celebration.

"It's ironic that anyone would break into the church offices, because we would give them assistance in so many ways without charge," the Rev. David Delph, the church pastor said.

Plant City police said they were called to the church at 404 W. Reynolds St. just before 8 a.m. Sept. 12. No one has been arrested as the investigation continues, a police spokesman said.

Delph believes the thief or thieves were looking for the church's collection but no cash is kept on the premises. The culprits likely saw the safe resting between two filing cabinets and assumed it contained money, Delph said.

But it was much more priceless.

"It's a record that we can't replace and we would like to have it back," the pastor said.

Another bit of irony: while the safe was fireproof, it was kept unlocked.

The pastor prays that the records will be returned to the red-brick church on the edge of the historic district or other public location, such as the nearby Bruton Memorial Library.

"Our hope is that once the robbers discover that the books mean nothing to them, they may see how vital and irreplaceable they are for our church, and that they may find a way to return them," he said.

First Presbyterian celebrates its 125th anniversary on Oct. 24.

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