Most places of worship embrace an open-door policy, but a careening car on Thursday morning left one York City church with something far more gaping.

"We were fortunate," said Pastor Kent Vandervort, administrative pastor and urban ministries pastor of Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene. "It knocked over a bunch of children's chairs, but didn't really do any damage inside."

The crash happened about 6:20 a.m. when a car crashed into Stillmeadow Church's York City campus at 350 Chestnut St., according to York City Police Sgt. John Veater.

No one was hurt, and the church sustained no significant structural damage, according to Vandervort, who said a parishioner and a passer-by helped clean up the mess.

Pastor Kent Vandervort carries away a door that was destroyed when a car crashed into the York City campus of Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene about 6:20
Pastor Kent Vandervort carries away a door that was destroyed when a car crashed into the York City campus of Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene about 6:20 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (Bil Bowden)

"We were joking about starting a drive-up church," he said.

The crash: A Mazda 626 started to turn left onto Chestnut from Broad Street but crashed into the church instead, according to Veater. There were no skidmarks to indicate the driver tried to stop, he said.

The driver of the car fled before police arrived, leaving the front end of the car in the church -- still in gear, the sergeant said.

The car was towed from the scene and officers later spoke with the owner, who told police she loaned her car to a man named "Rico" who was supposed to return it, but didn't, according to Veater.

If the driver can be identified, he will likely be charged, the sergeant said.


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The damage: The car burst through the exterior wall of the children's ministries area, on the Chestnut Street side of the building, leaving quite a mess, according to Vandervort.

Damage is extensive, he said, but structural damage is only minor. He estimated damage at about $15,000.

The mess inside was mostly from ruined drywall, parts from the car and general debris, Vandervort said.

The man who built the church's York campus was on scene Thursday afternoon, helping to seal up the open wall, the pastor said.

The car went about three to four feet inside, bending the building's steel studding, which is now twisted but still standing. The car also took out an exterior door.

Vandervort said the crash is merely a blip on the screen of the church's vision.

'Open for business': Church activity will have to be restricted in the children's ministries areas for a short time, but will go on as normal in the rest of the church.

"We are open for business," the pastor said. "God's work never stops."

Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene's main campus is along the Susquehanna Trail in Manchester Township and has about 2,500 parishioners, Vandervort said.

The York City campus has been opened for a little more than two years. About 150 to 200 people attend services there weekly, and that number is growing, he said.

"When we left the city (for Manchester Township) 20-some years ago ... we told our folks we'd make a move back into the city," Vandervort said.

-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.