Members of a Spanish-speaking congregation working to restore a condemned 140-year-old York City church suffered a major blow to their efforts Friday.
Someone broke in overnight and stole much of the copper piping from the East King Street home where Pastor Pedro Vazquez, his wife Maria and their three children had planned to move into this weekend.
Now, the soon-to-be Potter's House parsonage is without water.
"We are so disgusted it isn't even funny," said Sue Diaz, the congregation's director of fundraising and public relations.
The Potter's House, which currently worships at rented space on South Hartley Street, plans to spend $500,000 on renovations to the former Trinity United Methodist Church at 241 E. King St.
Trinity's congregation sold the church to the Potter's House in August after several years of wrangling over the historic building's future. Engineers repeatedly said the building's truss-supported slate roof is falling apart.
Without the financial means to fix it and unable to find a buyer for the property, Trinity's congregation found itself last year in a quagmire of conflicting directives from city officials. The church was once slated for demolition, and its status as a "condemned" property remains.
But the Potter's House, also known as Casa del Alfarero, said the property is perfectly located in a heavily Latino neighborhood, Diaz said. The growing congregation caters to a young, Spanish-speaking demographic.
The congregation plans to seek federal grants and private donations to fund the roof's permanent repair.
The discovery Friday of the stolen copper is another setback for a group that's been through a lot, Diaz said.
Securing financing and insurance for the building was an uphill battle, she said.
The next goal is to satisfy a list of needed repairs as soon as possible so the city will give them an occupancy permit to use a rear portion of the church for services. Then, they could stop paying rent at South Hartley Street.
But, first, the group wanted to ready the parsonage for the pastor and his family. The theft puts all of those plans on hold, Diaz said.
"It's sad. It's just really sad," she said. "We're really trying to do a good thing."
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.