It was the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 19, when the Grace Baptist Church community in Greensboro, North Carolina, noticed something was missing, WGHP reported.
The large church headstock, which holds the church bell, was standing guard in front of the doors of the church as normal, but the bell itself was missing. When the church leaders looked at surveillance video, what they discovered left them shocked, interim Pastor JR Gossett told WGHP.
On the surveillance footage, obtained by WFMY and posted on Facebook by the church’s secretary Robin Edwards, a car pulls up to the church, and someone attaches the bell to the trunk with what appear to be chains and drives away, dragging the bell with them.
Edwards told WFMY that church members have discussed offering a reward for its return.
Greensboro Police Department Spokesperson Ronald Glenn told McClatchy News that officers received a report about the stolen bell on Thursday, Jan. 20,and believe it was stolen earlier in the week. The investigation is ongoing, Glenn said.
According to a Facebook post Edwards published asking the public if they had information, the bell is about 60 years old.
The church was established in 1950, the congregation’s website said, and has been active for nearly 70 years.
Its long history is part of the reason why the bell is so important to the community, Edwards told WFMY.
“Bring us the bell back,” Edwards said, according to WFMY. “We would forgive them, but it just means a lot to a lot of people who’ve been here a long time.”
Gossett told WGHP he couldn’t wrap his head around why a person would steal a church bell, unless it was to sell as scrap metal.
“It is part of the history of this church, and when somebody steals your history, it just shocks you and breaks your heart,” he said. “You just want to get that back. You know, that’s the main thing, getting it back. We can buy a new bell, but it won’t be that bell. It won’t be our history. It won’t be the bell that has been here for all these years.”
Gossett added that the church would be willing to ”forgive and forget” the incident if the bell is returned.
According to information from the National Bell Festival, historic church bells were “sometimes cast from brass, iron, or steel,” which were “more economical to manufacture than bronze.”
The Compelling Truth Ministry notes that the action of ringing church bells dates back to A.D. 400. The sound of a ringing bell was believed to have a spiritual value and now holds the main purpose of announcing a service beginning at a church.
“Bell choirs create wondrous music, and often churches will simply ring the bells because of their beautiful sound,” the ministry writes on its website. “The Bible does not have a concrete position on church bells. Traditionally, most bell ringing is steeped in superstition or various Christian denominations. However, bells can be enjoyed for their joyful and celebrant sound.”
Glenn said the two suspects are described as white males, one wearing gray overalls and a toboggan and the other dressed in a hooded tan coat and blue jeans.
Anyone with information about the stolen bell is asked to contact the Greensboro Police Department, WFMY reported.