Hammond church holds first service days after devastating vandalism

HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- A northwest Indiana church is fulfilling its promise Sunday, days after vandals tore apart their sanctuary.

Faith United Church of Christ and Rehoboth Worship Center in Hammond opened its doors for the first service since it was vandalized last Wednesday. The service was held at 10 a.m.

Two men have been arrested since the break-in was reported.

23-year-old Aaron James Vanoppens and 22-year-old Nicholas Dylan Reding were both charged with one count each of burglary and institutional criminal mischief, both of which are felonies in Indiana, police said.

The vandals allegedly struck about 1 a.m. Wednesday. There was thousands of dollars in damage to the church organ, the altar, the office and even the bathrooms.

"Well first it was shock and awe just seeing the devastation that these individuals did, and after that it was collecting ourselves and (saying) 'What do we need to do to move forward?'" said David Turoci, a senior elder at the church.

Authorities do not believe this incident to be hate-crime related, instead calling it a "very juvenile crime of opportunity."

"We all are sinners and, you know, God forgives all," said Lori Pizer, the church's custodian.

If Vanoppens and Reding's punishment were left up to the congregation, Turoci's son Nolan said his father wants the two men to be the church's groundskeepers for a year "to help them have appreciation for the building."
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