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Vandal's Damage Dismays Church

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From the look of things — dented pipes, crushed pieces — the unknown culprit must have crept into the choir chancel area of the sanctuary and set about deliberately mauling the instrument, says John Hirschman, parish administrator.

Church workers reported the crime to Richmond Police, he says. "It was playing perfectly on Sunday," Hirschman recalls in disbelief.

The giant pipe organ is only a few years old and is valued at $1 million.

Experts have been called in to assess damage and estimate the cost of repairs. But so far, the cost has not yet been determined. And there appear to be few leads in the case.

"We have no idea who did it — or why someone would do it," Hirschman says, "other than it was willful damage."

By Wednesday, word of the desecration had reached nearby congregations as a hushed "Did you hear about what happened at St. Paul's?" echoed through downtown hallways. It could take some time before the church next to Capitol Hill sounds as loud as before.

After all, the organ is resounding, "extensive," even, as Hirschman points out. "Obviously it's a valuable instrument," he says. "It's a community instrument. People from all over come to hear its concerts. Right now some of those concerts appear to be in jeopardy." — B.W.

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