A Long Island church posted a fiery message for the thieves who swiped a heating tank, but soon changed its tune after the pastor was asked about unpaid bills on the tank.
Joshua Baptist Cathedral in Huntington posted a sign scolding the thieves who swiped an oil tank from the house of worship ahead of last weekend's services: "To whomever stole our oil tank U R going to hell."
It's not clear when exactly the oil tank was stolen, but the Rev. Stephanie Riddle Green, the church's pastor, told NBC 4 New York that it was cold in the building before Sunday's services.
Green said she raised the heat on the thermostat, but the temperature didn't change. So she went to check on the oil tank — which had been replaced six months ago after the old one was damaged by a flood — and discovered it had been taken.
Green at first told NBC 4 New York that the small congregation had not fully paid for the 275-gallon tank, and that she didn't know how they will find the money to pay off the stolen tank and buy a new one.
"To just come and blatantly rob us, we were devastated," she said.
But when NBC 4 New York called the Ronkonkoma company that installed the oil tank last year, a spokesman said the church owed over $1,000 for the tank and wasn't responding to the company's calls or letters for payment.
When asked about it later, Green admitted that the church hadn't been able to make payments.
"We paid what we could," she said. "The economy is what it is. We've been struggling."
But she didn't think the company repossessed the tank: "Not at all. I called and asked and they said no," said Green.
The company told NBC 4 New York that it didn't repossess the tank. But whoever did take it expertly capped the line and left little evidence of a hasty removal.
"I believe that someone robbed us," said Green.
By day's end, the fire-and-brimstone message outside the church had been changed to a spiritual one, saying they were "praying" for the thieves.