The congregation of Church of the Angels, Pasadena, held their normal Sunday services Jan. 14 in spite of damage done to the historic 1889 church by vandals two nights before.
According to the Rev. Robert Gaestel, longtime rector of the church, the vandals broke off the arms of a stone angel sculpture outside the church and scrawled graffiti on it and on paving stones on the patio. They broke a window in order to enter the church, where they used hymnals and prayer books as kindling to set a fire, which destroyed the antique carved wooden angel lectern and burnt four pews. The intruders tipped over the baptismal font and tried to pry the wooden pulpit from the wall.
No one was hurt in the incident, according to Gaestel, who noted that similar fires and graffiti — a Bible verse that references “graven images” — have defaced several other churches in Los Angeles County in the past year.
In what Gaestel described as a miracle, two young men visiting in the area who were out for a late walk noticed the smoke, saw the fire through the church windows and shouted for help, which brought Gaestel from his nearby home. Los Angeles and Pasadena firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, preventing damage to the church’s structure. The organ, an iconic stained glass window over the altar and other furnishings also were spared.
“There was an outpouring of support and concern from the diocese, neighboring parishes, our immediate neighbors, and other members of the community,” said Gaestel. “Neighbors jumped in to make temporary repairs like boarding up the window and brought material for graffiti removal. Others have offered resources to repair the damaged articles. Random people dropped by and expressed concern and made monetary gifts.”
At the Sunday services, the Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy, canon to the ordinary, represented Bishop John H. Taylor, who also visited the church on Saturday morning to survey the damage.
Church of the Angels, a historic landmark modeled on an English country church, is considered one of the architectural gems of the Diocese of Los Angeles.
To contribute to the church’s restoration, visit www.coa-pasadena.org/giving.