Sound of Christmas Stolen: Thieves Make Off with Bells from Woodland United Methodist Church

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WOODLAND — In the heart of downtown Woodland, the sound of praise and peace fill the air.

“When we play music, we sound like a piano or a music box.”

Every note. Every ring. Every move takes skill and precision.

“It’s like having an angel chorus enter into the worship space,” Rev. Elizabeth Brick said.

The music of the bell choir is tradition at Woodland United Methodist Church.

“Especially on Christmastime, the bells are very special,” said Debbie Grundman, bell choir director.

But two Sundays ago, on Dec. 11, before service around 7 a.m., church leaders walked inside to find heartbreak and disappointment.

“By the time the bell choir came in, it was clear that we were missing more than just battery packs and lights,” Brick said.

Surveillance cameras caught two men walking through the church the day of the break-in.

Investigators believe they stole five bells — all part of a 61 bell set the church received 40 years ago.

Also gone were 18 pairs of bell ringing gloves, equipment and Christmas lights.

“To look at the footage, seeing people take your things — there is something very violating about it, just tremendously uncomfortable,” Brick said.

But, in this place, there’s always room for forgiveness.

“I’m concerned for them. What would motivate them, and maybe what might be broken in their lives that needs healing?” Grundman said.

The church hopes to replace the bells, but the cost is $1,000.

They’ve been borrowing bells from the United Methodist Church in Sacramento. But on this day, someone answered their prayer.

Woodland United Methodist Church got a call from an anonymous donor saying they were going to give the church $1,500 to replace the stolen items.

And that’s the lesson.

The thieves never stole what’s most important.

“You can’t steal Christmas. You can’t steal faith. You can’t steal worship. You really have to gather yourself together and move forward,” Brick said.

And keep believing in the good in people.

Even though a generous donor stepped up to help replace the bells, the church would still like the old ones back because of their history. 

— Monika Diaz filed this report

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