Good news awaits juveniles at Bethbirei

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Bethbirei Presbyterian Church.

Members of the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church have four Bibles to give to the four teenagers who vandalized the 129-year-old building and stole the pulpit Bible in an apparent attempt to disprove the legend surrounding the good book.

However, the members don't anticipate a visit from the juveniles who were directed by Marshall County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Bowden to pay restitution and go to the congregation and tell why they committed the crimes, church elder Roy Cheeves said on Saturday.

Three boys and a girl broke into the church at 2025 Bethbirei Road on Super Bowl Sunday in early February. They were charged with burglary and theft over $500 and burning private property, Sheriff Norman Dalton said, explaining that the four broke into the church and stole the Bible "because of the legend that you couldn't take it out of the church."

Legend has it that the Bible on the pulpit in the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church can't be taken from the church because the further it's taken away from the pulpit, the heavier it becomes until it cannot be carried. That legend has apparently led to a number of break-ins and the latest prompted the Rev. Claude McMillion, pastor of the congregation, to ask news media to publicize the crime in hopes that it would help solve the case. It did and the teenagers have been before Bowden for the Super Bowl weekend burglary and some of them have been in trouble since then, Cheeves said.

The elder was there when Bowden ordered the four to make restitution and perform some work at the church, and suggested that they go to the church and explain why they did such a heinous act. The pulpit Bible had binding and a cover made with goatskin that still had hair. It was an expensive Bible donated to the church in memory of Cheeves' son, Jeffery, who died in a traffic crash March 8, 2010. Lawmen say that book was burned and thrown in a trash bin that subsequently caught on fire.

Cheeves attended the juvenile court hearing when the judge issued his order in the juveniles' cases. Juvenile Court is open to the public but it's not common to get word of what the judge orders.

"Since then," Cheeves said Saturday, "some of them have been in trouble again and there's been an order telling them not to be in contact with each other, so I guess they'll have to come one at a time" to speak with the congregation.

However, Cheeves and others at the church doubt that any of the four will go to the church to tell why they took the Bible, burned it and dumped it in a big metal trash bin.

Asked if he thinks the children know why they did it, Cheeves replied, "In conversation, they've supposedly said they don't know why... They've not come..."

As for the directive that they do work at the church, Cheeves and another member of the church said they'd rather that they not come.

"We'd rather do it without their help," Cheeves said of gardening, and other work in and around the church.

Still, he said, "We've got a Bible for each of them."

The Bethbirei Presbyterian Church was the site of the 197th meeting of the Rock Creek Bible Society on Saturday.