A robber burst into a West Baltimore church Friday night and robbed about 30 churchgoers as he held a gun to the head of a visiting minister, police and witnesses said.
The robbery took place at St. Matthews Holiness Church in the 1100 block of West Baltimore Street just after 10 p.m. as some 30 people sat listening to a sermon on Christ's second coming.
The gunman, accompanied by an accomplice, bolted to the front of the church and pressed his gun against the head of Rita Schine, a visiting minister.
Then he ordered the congregation to the floor and demanded that they surrender their wallets and purses, police and witnesses said.
"Don't do anything stupid, or I blow her head off!" the gunman told members, police said.
No one was injured in the robbery.
The robbers, who remained at large last night, fled south on West Baltimore Street on foot with about $350 in cash and about a dozen purses and wallets, said Sgt. William Driscoll of the Western District.
Mary Farmer, a 48-year-old churchgoer who sat in the church with her two sons and a daughter, said she and other members of the congregation would pray for the robbers.
"I really feel sorry for these guys. They did something very dangerous," Mrs. Farmer said. "You cannot treat God's house in this evil way. We don't harbor ill feelings. We pray for our enemies. God takes care of vengeance."
Mrs. Farmer, a 30-year member of the congregation, lost her purse, containing $45, while her two sons lost a combined $90 and their wallets.
The non-denominational Christian congregation is attended several times weekly by about 40 members and moved to its current location from McCulloh Street in 1973, Mrs. Farmer said. She said members intend to continue the regular Friday-night service.
"We cannot stop and be prisoners in our homes because they come in your homes and get you too," she said.
"I must say this is the first robbery like this I've seen," Sergeant Driscoll said. "I guess you could say there's nothing sacred anymore, but then I already knew that."