MENIFEE – Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Menifee Police Station are investigating after a church in Menifee was first vandalized and then burglarized in two consecutive overnight incidents.
The Menifee United Church of Christ, which is located at 26701 McCall Boulevard, in Menifee, was broken into sometime during the evening Monday, July 11. Knives were wedged between two doors, trash and garbage were strewn about throughout the inside and outside the church, a picnic table was overturned, and concrete patio benches were smashed.
The following night, just hours after the church’s Senior Minister Bill Freeman and his wife Kathleen finished cleaning up the mess left by the vandals, the church was burglarized. During the burglary, the church’s safe was stolen. According to Freeman, the safe contained hundreds of dollars in cash and checks from the previous Sunday’s offerings as well as important legal documents.
The back-to-back incidents have left Freeman bewildered and wondering why their church would be targeted, although Freeman said, “I have my suspicions.”
Freeman explained the church prides itself on its’ liberal approach and welcomes all people regardless of age, sex, race, class, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“I don’t know if we were vandalized and burglarized because we’re a liberal church in a conservative community,” Freeman said, explaining the church recently placed a rainbow flag and a coexist sign on the side of its building. Two previous rainbow flags were stolen from the front of the church in the last few months, according to Freeman.
Freeman’s wife, Kathleen, was in tears following the two incidents and said she felt violated.
The church filed police reports about both incidents and was contacted Wednesday by sheriff’s officials who had located the church’s safe in the Canyon Lake area. “I was told the door to the safe had been blown off and all the contents from inside were gone,” Freeman said.
Menifee United Church of Christ was the first church in Menifee, back when the area was known as Sun City.
The church claims to respect people of all faiths and is a member of the United Church of Christ, a progressive denomination. The UCC was the first mainline Christian church to ordain an African-American minister in 1785. It was also the first church to ordain a female minister in 1853 and the first to ordain an openly homosexual minister in 1972. The church performed its’ first same-sex wedding in July 2015, the first such wedding in the then 53-year history of the church.
The church offers a food pantry and a clothing closet for homeless and needy people to provide for their immediate needs. Their Missions Fund supports people in need as does their Pastor’s Fund, which allows people to receive discreet help from the church’s Senior Minister. The church supports the Menifee Community Cupboard and Survival Ministries in Perris. The congregation also provides to a number of other charities.
In an effort to better secure the facility, the church just had all the locks on their entire property re-keyed at a cost of over $4,000; money that Freeman said was difficult to come up with after the theft of their safe that contained all their week’s tithes and offerings.
“We have no idea who would rob us like this,” Freeman said. “People have problems all the time and churches aren’t immune, but it’s just so sad to see something like this happen.”
“We just hope the police catch whoever did it,” Freeman said.
Anyone wanting to help the church recoup some of its’ losses can either mail or deliver money to the church directly or can donate here.