A CRUCIAL meeting will be held on Saturday to decide the future of an historic church.

Members of the congregation at St John’s Church, Birkby, have to decide whether or not to commit to a major restoration project.

The 150-year-old church is in dire need of repairs but the bill will come in at more than £1m.

And the Rev Sue Clarke admits it is a big commitment.

The church has already had to meet one big repair bill after vandals who tried to steal the church’s lightning conductor in July 2008 caused horrendous damage, bringing down huge stones through the church roof.

It meant that much of the top of the spire had to be painstakingly rebuilt, with special pieces cut from local stone and carved to fit.

The church was left facing a repair bill of more than £750,000 after the spire came crashing down in the early hours incident.

Most of the cost was covered by the church’s insurers.

But the congregation still had to find £100,000.

Further checks on the church fabric have revealed that major work is needed.

Mrs Clarke said: “We are holding an Open Meeting on Saturday afternoon to decide what to do.

“There will be a short service first at 1.15pm then the meeting will start at 2pm at the church.

“The aim is to tell everyone who is concerned about the church just what state the building is in and secondly to decide what to do about it.

“The experts have told us there is a lot of work needed to be done and the idea would be to do it in five phases over a 10-year period. Each phase would cost at least £250,000 so we are talking of a bill of well over £1m.

“It is difficult. We have only 20 or so people turning up at our services and many of those are elderly. There is also the factor that there are several other churches in the area, including St Cuthbert’s at Fixby and Christ Church, Woodhouse. Perhaps people think we have too many buildings.

“I also have concerns that our thoughts perhaps focus too much on the building rather than on the church. We are so focussed on looking after the building that we put our community work and our spiritual work second.

“There is a lot to decide and to think about”.

The meeting is at 2pm.