THE vicar of an East Devon church has offered her support to thieves who stole a number of silverware items from the sacred building in broad daylight.
Between 11.30am on Sunday, January 20, and 9.30am on Thursday, January 24, a safe was raided at Otterton's Church of St Michaels and All Angels.
Several items essential to services were stolen, including a silver wafer box holder, three silver chalices and a small silver dish.
Community priest Reverend Anne Charlton said: "I'm upset by this because we give all our spare money to those in need, and if someone had just come to me and asked for help, I would have given it."
The church has recently pledged about £4,000 to families in need, which has included contributing to food banks as well as giving out cash.
Also, over Christmas the church distributed the winter fuel allowances donated by some of the wealthier members of the community to those in need.
The stolen items, all inscribed with the name of the church, were pledged to the church by both the Grimaldi family and the Phillips family and date back to 1945.
Rev Charlton said the items were used for communion, and it is not their value which is important. She does not know at this point what they will replace them with.
"As Christians, we are not worried about the value of these items," she said. "We just feel for the people who took them and wonder why they did.
"I'd like to talk to the people involved and see how we can help them get back on the straight and narrow."
East Budleigh Church was also recently targeted by thieves. At some point during the day on January 15 or 16 a milk churn was stolen, containing cash donations from the community.
The vicar said there is no intention of closing the churches as a result of the incidents.
"Everyone is welcome into our churches, and we feel it is very important to keep them open during the day so people can come in when they want to," she added. "But they're going to be empty at this rate."
Detective Constable Blain Bishop is urging anyone who may know anything about the theft to contact police.
"These are integral items for daily worship at the church, so the impact has been huge on the church and the community for which the church is the centre," he said.
"This is a really sad, low act and any information the public can give us could be key.
"We would like to hear from anyone who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously in the area, or anyone who may know where the items are or who are offered any of the items.
"Any information which could help lead to the recovery of the items or their return would be appreciated."
People can contact the police on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on, 0800 555111, and quote crime reference number KE/13/167.