This clever image tells a heartbreaking story familiar to all too many churches – but the accompanying words are defiant and stirring.
Anne Curwen – church warden at St Stephen’s in Etton, Cambridgeshire – took the photograph when she and her husband, the treasurer, found that lead thieves had stripped sixteen tonnes of lead from the roof.
There had been several thefts before, including one a few years ago in which lead worth £16,000 vanished, but the latest, in November 2018, was far more serious, and left the church with a bill of £100,000.
Despite this, the sentence which Anne sent with her picture shows the congregation’s resilience in the face of this terrible blow: ‘We will not be beaten by metal thieves!’
‘It was a shocking, heartbreaking incident,’ said Anne. ‘We’d been toying with the idea of a roof alarm, but decided against on the basis that there are houses very close by. We thought that any significant theft would be heard. We couldn’t believe that they had managed to take it all without anyone noticing.
‘It rained in immediately, and I was in the church, despairing, and saw the reflection of the stained glass window in a puddle. I took a picture, and it did make me feel slightly better – it was a thing of beauty that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It has all been a reminder that we should never give up hope, and that we are never defeated.’
Part of the lead has been replaced with terne-coated steel, thanks in part to an insurance payout from Ecclesiastical, but the church is still looking to raise many thousands of pounds.
‘It’s fantastic to have won this money,’ said Anne. ‘We only said on Sunday that we needed to roll our sleeves up and start the next round of fundraising.’