The vicar of St John’s Church in Burgess Hill says he is ‘determined Christmas 2018 will remain as bright as ever’ after callous thieves stole the church’s Christmas tree lights.
LED lights were stripped from the giant 40ft tree outside the church in Lower Church Road.
A crowdfunding page has since been set up to replace the lights, which could cost more than £1,000.
Father Kevin O’Brien said: “It is a shock and you hope that something for the town like this, people will think it is nice and will not think it is worth stealing.
“They have stolen from the church but really they have stolen from the town. If they are part of the community I don’t know what they feel.
“As churches we are used to things like this happening, people have shot at our lights before and stained glass windows and doors with bb guns, but this is an odd thing to do.
They have stolen from the church but really they have stolen from the town.Father Kevin O’Brien
“Hopefully we can turn this around and if we can get some new lights that will look even better – that would be wonderful.”
The lights were funded by the church and P&S Gallagher funeral services across the road, with more being added each year.
By last Christmas, the tree had around 6,000 lights and around 180 people attended the tree lighting service. A child is chosen from the crowd each year to turn the switch on.
Each year, around 200 people also attend a carol service when the lights are turned on.
Father O’Brien said the annual tree lighting service on December 12, was now under threat following the shocking theft.
He added: “We are determined to continue this year, but the theft of the lights is very expensive to put right, and a sad prelude to Christmas.
“We shall have to dig deep to see what can be afforded this year. We are determined that Christmas 2018 will remain as bright as ever.”
Burgess Hill Town Council has donated £250 towards replacing the lights.
Pru Moore, leader of the town council, said: “We are very saddened and disappointed that people can do something like this that the entire town enjoys at Christmas time.”
Members of the community were quick to respond to the act of theft on Facebook branding it ‘disgraceful’, ‘cruel’ and ‘heartless’.
Resident Katie Thomas said: “So incredibly sad, particularly when you think how much he has done for the community in recent months. So disrespectful.”
Clair White also said: “What’s wrong with people these days! Makes me sad.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation can visit https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/stjohnschurch.