The burglars who broke into Chaska's oldest church two weeks ago got only about $50 but inadvertently removed something far more precious — more than 150 years of handwritten records marking its history, including births, deaths, marriages and baptisms.
The pastor of Chaska Moravian Church this week publicized the combination of a bulky safe taken by the thieves that contained petty cash and the four leather-bound volumes. And an anonymous donor offered a $1,000 reward for the records' safe return.
"I'm confident they'll come back," the Rev. Michael Eder said Friday of the documents. "They have no value to anybody else, and when you make your living trusting that a carpenter can figure out a way to dig a back door out a tomb and get into little pieces of bread every Sunday all over the world, it's not too hard to believe that a couple of tablets of paper can find their way back home."
Other than the safe, the thieves took only a few dollars from the after-church coffee stash.
"Who thinks churches have money? A church — really?" Eder said.
Eder said it's the only time he can recall the safe being locked in the eight years he has led the church. The volumes were kept there because it is fireproof. It normally was left unlocked so a thief could simply grab the cash and leave the records undisturbed. The only money in there was for making change when the church sells root beer floats during summer band concerts at City Square Park across the street.
Eder said someone at the church usually takes the weekly collection home on Sundays and puts it in the bank the next day. But the person was out of town July 13, so the collection was locked up in the safe. It was accidentally locked again after money was retrieved for deposit the next day. The burglary occurred that night.
The church got some good news late this week when it learned from the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pa., that it has the first two volumes of the Chaska church's history dating back to 1858. The missing records start at around 1900, Eder said. He made the last entry about two weeks ago to record a baptism.
It was Eder's idea to post the safe's combination on the church's Facebook page. "I'm hoping to make it easier for them to get what they want and be done with the rest of it," he said.
The Chaska Police Department are asking anyone with information about the burglary to call 952-448-4200.