Residents in Boxgrove were left devastated after hundreds of pounds were stolen from their local church.
The money from the wall safe, which contained months of donations, was taken from the Priory Church of St Mary and St Blaise at Church Lane.
A quick-thinking church warden serving cream teas had managed to call the police shortly after the money was stolen.
A man and women were arrested shortly after but have been released on bail.
Parochial Church Council secretary Richard Chevis said: “What we are talking about here is someone taking money out of the wall safe by fishing it out. We can’t replace the cash.
“Churches used to be secured places for everybody, regardless of whether they believe in any faith or not.
“The perception of the whole thing is that we’ve been invaded. A bit like when your house is burgled.
“We make a point of keeping the church open every day. People can find solace here and a place to reflect on the problems of their life.”
Mr Chevis said over the years some candlesticks and marble flower pedestals have been stolen from the church.
He added that there is a problem with church security generally. The church in Boxgrove does have CCTV cameras.
Lady Iris Watts, who gives tours of the church, said: “This was particularly wicked because that money was donated voluntarily by people. No one asked them for it.
“When I do tours around the church quite a lot of people put money in. Old churches like this one are a huge challenge to look after.”
The money was reported to have been taken from the church at around 12.40pm on July 29.
If you have any information about the incident, please contact Sussex Police, quoting STORM: 783 of the 29/07/12.
The church, dedicated to St Mary and to St Blaise, dates from the early twelfth century.
From an entry in the Domesday Book, it is known that Boxgrove had the status of a parish and that a church existed before the Norman Conquest.