The thief who stole nine bronze bell-choir bells from Otterbein United Methodist Church in York City had a better option than turning to crime, according to the church's pastor.
"This congregation has a huge heart," the Rev. Jason Schwartzman said.
Had the thief given Otterbein UMC's congregation a chance to help, "we would at least have listened to their situation, to see what we could do," the pastor said.
Nine bells from the 37-bell, three-octave set were stolen perhaps as far back as November, according to York City Police, who said the theft was reported Friday.
Even now, the congregation isn't unsympathetic, according to Schwartzman, who has a message for the thief:
"Come in, bring the bells and let's see what we can do to help your situation," he said. "This is obviously an inappropriate way to get yourself out of (financial difficulties). Give us a chance to help."
Costly replacement: Replacing the nine black-handled bronze bells will cost about $2,600, Schwartzman said; the entire set is valued at more than $10,000.
"We feel violated, really," he said.
The pastor suspects the bells were taken to be sold for scrap metal, which he called a shame.
Lt. Tim Utley, who supervises the city police department's detective bureau, agreed that's the likeliest scenario.
Schwartzman said he's unsure how old the bells are.
"They aren't necessarily antiques, but in the music world they're definitely valuable," he said. "They've been part of the church for quite awhile."
Other than being rung by members of Otterbein's bell choir, there's no use for them, Schwartzman said.
'Beautiful' bells: "They're beautiful and shiny. You're never supposed to touch them with your hands -- you're supposed to wear white gloves," to avoid leaving fingerprints, he said.
And it's not as if someone "borrowed" the bells to play a piece elsewhere, according to Schwartzman. Each bell represents a specific note, and the bells stolen couldn't be used to play a piece.
"They make no musical sense," the pastor said.
The theft means Otterbein UMC's bell choir was forced to cancel a planned Palm Sunday performance, Schwartzman said.
Easter performance: But the bell choir's performance of the song "Celebrate This Glorious Day" is still scheduled for the church's Easter service, which begins at 10:30 a.m. March 31.
"We still have all the right bells to do the Easter piece as planned," Schwartzman said.
Otterbein UMC is located at 301 W. Philadelphia St.
Anyone with information about the stolen bells is asked to call city detectives at (717) 849-2219.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at email@example.com.