Nothing is Sacred: Halcombe Church Burgled Twice in Two Months

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Reverend Sarah McMenamin, center, with parishioners Wayne Short and Alison Short outside St Michael and All Angels Church in Stanway.

Conor Knell / Stuff

Reverend Sarah McMenamin, center, with parishioners Wayne Short and Alison Short outside St Michael and All Angels Church in Stanway.

A remote church in rural Manawatū has suffered its second burglary in a month, leaving a community devastated.

St Michael and All Angels Church in Stanway, on Makino Rd near Halcombe, has been repeatedly raided for brass.

The most recent theft took place on Saturday July 16, when several brass plaques were torn from the walls, as well as brass railings behind the altar, and the interior of the church was also vandalized.

Although they did not cause significant damage, the crosses, candlesticks and other altar ornaments are now kept offsite while the church rethinks its security.

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The church altar is now bare with no cross, no candles, no flowers and no curtains.

Conor Knell / Stuff

The church altar is now bare with no cross, no candles, no flowers and no curtains.

“There really is nothing left to steal,” Reverend Sarah McMenamin said. “Fortunately, we had pictures of the plates, so we are looking to have them redone.”

His congregation is a small rural community, many of which have had deep ties to the church for decades.

“It’s really disappointing to see such insane damage. Our buildings are there for the community to use, but this feels like such an intrusion into a place that is very special to us.

Parishioner Wayne Short lives near the church. Stanway was where he was baptized and where he and his wife Alison got married. Both attended church most of their lives.

Wayne Short said the thieves moved to the church within hours.

“There was a wedding on Saturday and the last person left around 3:30 p.m. A few hours later, around 7 p.m., I was returning home and saw the gate open.

“I went to see if everything was okay and found out what they had done. It was such a short window of time.

The church was already recovering parts from a previous burglary in early May when a series of other brass and metal items were stolen.

The church near Halcombe has been burglarized twice in eight weeks and nearly all of the copper plates have been stolen from the walls by thieves.

Conor Knell / Stuff

The church near Halcombe has been burglarized twice in eight weeks and nearly all of the copper plates have been stolen from the walls by thieves.

Alison Short, who was a councilor for the Manawatū district, said like many parishioners, the burglaries had angered the couple.

“The first time it happened I was upset, but I was probably more angry the second time around.

“It’s been really important to talk about this with our older parishioners because some of them are reaching their 90s and they’re incredibly upset about what’s been lost.

McMenamin said the church has received a lot of support from the wider Anglican community.

While they considered how to move forward with security, the remaining brass would now be removed from the church at the end of services.

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