Luther Hays Presbyterian Church had its history stolen recently, and the church’s members are pleading for its safe return.
A thief broke into the church, located on Hayston Road, two weekends ago and stole the safe in the building’s storage room. He was likely in for an unwelcome surprise, as the safe contained no money.
However, to members, the safe contained something much more valuable: original documents from the church’s founding in 1894.
Fred Greer, whose grandmother helped to charter the church, said the safe contained the original charter from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, records of former ministers, and minutes from old meetings.
Greer said the record even included the salaries of former pastors; during the Great Depression, the pastor was paid $40, plus fruit, vegetables, ham and chicken provided by the congregation.
Peggy Greer, Fred’s wife, said one of her favorite lines referred to a meeting when the parishioners “met and grieved over the budget.
“Those sorts of things you can’t duplicate,” Peggy said. “It was all in that beautiful old script.”
“It’s not like records stolen from a church that was started five years ago; there’s a lot of history there,” Fred said.
The safe and documents are worth nothing to others, but are of supreme value to the small church.
The Greers are hoping that by spreading the word, they’ll get the documents returned, either by the thief or by someone who happens to see the safe on the side of the road.
“We’d love to have the documents back; we’re praying maybe the person’s conscience will lead them to bring the stuff back in a garbage bag and put it in the front steps,” Peggy said.
“They were looking for money, but they were not malicious and we’re very thankful for that. A lot of times, (thieves) make a mess or write on the walls and do a lot of damage, but these were not malicious people,” Peggy said, noting that the directions to the nearby HVAC system, which had been on top of the safe, were left neatly on the table.
The safe also contained annual reports from the church, right through to the present.
Fred is familiar with how his home church was founded because of those records.
Members from Covington and Bethany Presbyterian churches made a presentation to the Atlanta Presbytery, seeking permission to start a new church. The Presbytery agreed, and the church was officially chartered on Dec. 16, 1894.
Greer said that prospective members, local farmers and others, were so optimistic the church charter would be approved that they already had built a 30-foot by 50-foot church.
The church was named after the father of the family who donated the land — Luther Hays.
“We just ask people to be aware and be on the lookout (for the safe),” Peggy said.