An Anglican church hall and office in Parksville has been closed after thieves broke in using a blowtorch, causing a fire and significant smoke damage as well as other vandalism and theft of undisclosed items.
The break-in at the Saint Anne and Saint Edmund parish facility occurred on Wednesday at about 3 a.m.
The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia said in a statement the incident does not appear to be targeted toward the parish, adding the method of entry suggests a link to several similar incidents in the Parksville area at other businesses.
“For the parish of Saint Anne and Saint Edmund, and the community of Parksville, this incident results in the temporary loss of an important community space,” said the diocese.
The hall hosts parish and community programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, meditation and spiritual discussions and youth groups including Brownies, Guides, Rangers and Pathfinders, as well as fitness, yoga and music programs for elders.
The church and hall have also been used as shelters over the past two winters for people experiencing homelessness in Parksville and nearby communities.
Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee of the Anglican Diocese of Islands and Inlets, said the physical damage to the building can be repaired, but “we grieve the loss of this community space in the interim. Many citizens of all ages visit the church hall weekly for meaningful programs — the temporary loss of their access to the building will be felt most deeply by them.”
Sunday worship will continue as scheduled. Neither the Saint Anne building nor the Saint Edmund worship space were damaged. The parish plans on restoring the hall and office areas.