Church vandals leave behind severe damage

Larry Cudmore, retired senior pastor, visits the First Evangelical Lutheran Church off Sunnyside Road on Monday following weekend vandalism at the church. “It’s sad and disappointing,” said Cudmore, pastor for 16 years at the church, “someone’s awfully angry.” The church was burglarized and vandalized over the weekend. John Roark /

Penny Dixon, director of music, is seen through a broken window at First Evangelical Lutheran Church off Sunnyside Road on Monday. “We had service on Sunday in another room,” Dixon said. “They aren’t going to stop us.” John Roark /

The Bible is seen past smashed glass at First Evangelical Lutheran Church off Sunnyside Road on Monday. John Roark /

A communion tray and knocked over candle holder are seen at First Evangelical Lutheran Church off Sunnyside Road on Monday. John Roark /

Church items are seen inserted into broken windows at First Evangelical Lutheran Church off Sunnyside Road. Courtesy/ Heide Weatherby

Members of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Idaho Falls found their place of worship vandalized when they arrived to prepare for Sunday service.

Pictures taken by staff at the church show several items left hanging in the six broken glass panels in front of the worship room. Penny Dixon, director of music at the church, said the bible, older than any of the staff can remember, was laying in the center aisle, several of its pages torn out.

“This feels very personal,” Dixon said.

The break-in happened between 10:30 p.m. Saturday, when the janitorial staff left, and 8 a.m. Sunday when staff arrived before morning service.

A window was found broken in a storage room where the suspect entered. From there the suspect made their way to the sanctuary.

Several items were reported stolen, including sound system equipment, crosses, candles and gold candlestick holders. The church is waiting for an estimate from its insurance company on the cost of the damage. Idaho Falls Police Department Spokeswoman Holly Cook said officers estimated the stolen items alone are worth more than $10,000.

“I don’t know how they’ll sell any of the stuff,” said former Pastor Larry Cudmore, referring to the religious items that were taken.

Cudmore was the church’s pastor for 16 years before retiring in February. He and Dixon said they’ve seen minor vandalism on church property, but nothing on the scale discovered Sunday.

Dixon said staff and churchgoers were heartbroken to see the damage. A detective was assigned to the case, which Cook said is rare for vandalism.

Members of the church said they do not intend to let the damage to their church stop them from practicing their beliefs.

“After we got over the shock we moved forward and worshipped in another room,” Dixon said.

The damage remained at the church on Monday for insurers to estimate the damage. The First Evangelical Lutheran Church is scheduled to host seven other churches Friday and Saturday that are associated with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.

There was talk of canceling the event, but the staff said it was important to move on. Andrew Williams, coordinator of Family Ministries at the church, said he saw the damage. When asked for any final comments he said, “Just a prayer for the person who did this.”

Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.