I interrupted a break-in this week at church. It happened this way:
I had a meeting at 7:30, just a few people, and we were all a few minutes late. I walked up to the building and the door was unlocked. The lights were on. I walked in and when I turned down the hallway to my office, a man came down the hall, smiled at me and said hi and walked out the door. I walked past the doorway to the Wesley Room and saw another man come out of the dark kitchen and he smiled at me, said hi, and walked directly out the door. I unlocked my office door, set down my coat and thought, "Huh. I wonder what they were doing here." I wandered around a bit, found two trustees working in the basement, and kept wondering what was wrong.
It took me ten minutes to figure it out. When I noticed the door jamb had been jimmied out 1/4 inch or so I knew what had happened: the first man had been working on my door and when he heard me walk in he hid his tool and walked past me outside.
At that point I called 911 and the police came and walked through the building with me. Nothing was stolen so I didn't file a report, but my call is on their record. They assured me it was fine to call 911 if it happened again.
So we are reconsidering our locking policies. I think I should put a note on my office that says, "Nothing of value in here except biblical commentaries" though I'm sure that wouldn't work. And now I am less confident of running next door when the building is empty, especially at night. And I do (did) that a lot.
I haven't had enough emotional energy to think about it much this week; I'm more emotional about a friend that died, whom I was with all afternoon the day this happened. But there are moments when I think, What if I'd been four minutes later? I would have walked into someone inside my office, and that would have been a whole different thing.
But that didn't happen. What did happen was I saw (and smelled) two suspicious men and walked right past them. I didn't ask them what they were doing, which I normally would have done ("Excuse me, I'm the pastor here. Can I help you?") but I let them walk right past. While the front of my brain was running through the church calendar and all the reasons they might have been there, talking myself out of assuming the worst, the back of my brain was telling me to just walk on past. And I did.
I was lucky, or something. I hope next time I'm smarter. But it is what it was, a possibly terrible, and actually distressing, encounter in a church, the last place you expect it.