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THE STORY:

Hateful words were spray-painted on pews and pictures, office doors were kicked in and electronics stolen.

Downstairs, rooms rented by Canada Christian Academy – a small school of fewer than 40 students – suffered a similar fate, losing much-needed computers and cash, and receiving a trail of damage.

They even stole the school’s hot lunch money.

Peel Regional Police are calling it a hate crime, and the church congregation and school community say they are stunned at how such a thing could happen in a quiet, out-of-the-way church tucked into the heart of Peel Village.

“I think there was some anger and some people are upset that somebody would do this in a church,” said Steve Rhodes, chair of the church’s board of directors. “It was a bit of a shock that this could happen.”

Profanity, references to “Satan,” and upside down crosses were among the things spray-painted in white throughout.

In 53 years of existence on Abbey Road, nothing like this has ever happened before, he said.

“We’ve had a bit of outside graffiti over the years, but mostly kids’ stuff,” Rhodes said.

That all changed some time overnight from March 2 to 3.

Police believe the culprits took their time inside the sprawling church, covering every inch of it. The last meeting of the night March 2 ended at 8 p.m. and all was good. When the custodian arrived around 4 a.m. the next day, the break-in was discovered.

The church’s loses have not yet been tallied. The school estimates its own damage and losses around $10,000.

“They stole mainly cash,” said Nick Patro, the school’s resource manager. “We just had computers donated, and they stole two. They took/ruined two flat screen monitors and another computer.”

The small non-profit school has “very limited resources,” and not much money to buy anything new, he said. They depend on donations.

But the vandals managed to take “what little we had of value.”

“They stole field trip money that a school of under 40 students will find hard to replace,” Patro said.

It’s unclear if the Bible can be repaired. The same goes for a 1962 painting of area pioneer Bartley Bull by well-known Canadian artist Dorothy Stevens that was damaged, Rhodes said.

The church lost several items, including a sound system, computers, and a small safe.

The safe contained no cash, but inside were four ledgers containing list of all the marriages and births celebrated in recent years by the congregation, as well as funerals and memorials, all dating back to the early 1960s. Those records exist elsewhere, but not specific to the church, and while of no value to anyone else, it has special meaning to the church.

“We would like to get that back,” Rhodes said.

Church officials are now working with Peel Regional Police experts to improve the security of the building, Rhodes said.

“We’re looking at all sorts of options,” he said.

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