While driving along College Parkway this week, you may have noticed the marquee for Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Arnold: "Pray for those who stole our heat pumps."
Four massive heat pumps were ripped from the church's rear exterior, leaving more than 10 classrooms and the fellowship hall bereft of warm air during the coldest month of the year.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Heather McHugh, the parish administrator.
McHugh described the pumps as weighing several hundred pounds each, and pointed out tire tracks near where the pumps were missing.
"It must have taken a number of guys and a big trailer or something," she said. "They came in and cut them off from the wall to the church, ripped out the wires and just left."
McHugh estimated the cost at $80,000 to replace the heat pumps and outfit the church with the necessary equipment.
Over the years, Gloria Dei has become a central meeting point for several groups in the Broadneck area. But until the heating units are replaced, students in a home school taught daily out of the church's rooms and more than two dozen community groups, including boy and girl scouts, will have to endure the cold.
"They'll just put on coats. They don't have anywhere else to meet," she said.
Emergency heat is running in the building now, which is able to raise the temperature in some rooms up to 65, and the fellowship hall to 55.
The church's council met to determine how to react, and the message on its sign was among the first things they decided on. McHugh said church officials wanted to get the word out that other churches and buildings should take precautions against thieves.