Thieves have stripped bare a historic church on Lytton First Nation Reserve, leaving behind little more than the walls and windows.
“At least they left behind the stained-glass windows. I guess it was just too hard to get them out, because they took everything else,” said Dorothy Dodge, a longtime resident and curator of the Lytton Museum and Archives.
The thieves took anything they could, from the gold candlesticks to the priest’s ceremonial robes, beloved 19th-century paintings and even the church organ that was given to the community by the Governor-General in 1877.
For almost a century and a half, St. Mary's and St. Paul's Anglican Church has served the Lytton area, about 250 kilometres northeast of Vancouver. It is the Cathedral church for the Thompson River First Nations (also known as Nlaka'pamux) in the Fraser Valley, an area stretching hundreds of kilometres from Merritt in the east, down to Spuzzum in the south.
The 140-year-old church was robbed some time between April 8, when the parish celebrated Easter Sunday mass, and April 24, when the break-in was discovered.
Amanda Adams was there that evening to find the side door broken and the church “bare,” as one of about a dozen volunteers there to prepare for a band elder’s funeral, set to take place at the church last weekend.
“I was surprised that someone could sink that low,” said Ms. Adams, 23, who works for the local Tribal Council. She lives just down the street from the church, where she was baptized and her parents were married.
The old, wooden building is generally used only for special events such as weddings and funerals.
“It really gives your head a shake,” said Lytton Mayor Jessoa Lightfoot. She said it was “quite a shock” for the normally quiet community. Including the Village of Lytton, the surrounding rural area and First Nations reserves, Lytton’s population is around 2,000 people.
Rev. Jim White has been active in the parish for more than 30 years. He said he could not estimate a dollar value for what was stolen.
“What was taken wasn’t so much monetary as it was sentimental, as it was historical. And you can’t put a price tag on those things,” Mr. White said. “It touches everybody in the community.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Mr. White said that some parishes from other denominations outside the area had started to get in touch to offer financial support to St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s Church.
Lytton First Nation Chief Janet Webster said the robbery was “heartbreaking” and “disheartening, especially for the elders.”
“I hope whoever’s done this would return these artifacts that mean a lot to our people.”
Chief Webster asked anyone with information to contact her at 250-455-0075 or the Lytton RCMP at 250-455-2225.