A CHURCH left devastated by heartless thieves is finally on the road to repair.
The community was shocked last month when lead thieves struck St John the Evangelist Church at Birkby, leaving a trail of destruction.
Emergency work to secure the site was carried out, but the church had to be closed and it was feared that the repair bill could top £100,000.
To see how much damage was caused by the thieves, click here for a photo gallery of the church.
But the future is looking brighter for the 155-year-old church. Work on repairing it has finally begun, with work expected to be complete by Christmas.
But there is a lot of work that needs to be done to restore the church to its former glory.
Kind-hearted locals are being asked to help raise the thousands of pounds urgently needed to complete the work.
Churchwarden Tony Clarke said: “It looks like World War Two in the church at the moment. Everything is in bits, like a jigsaw that we’re now trying to put back together.
“A lot of damage has been caused by the stupid actions of these thieves and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to put it right.
“It will cost a small fortune to repair everything so we need to get this fundraising going now.”
Last month the Examiner showed shocking images of the huge amount of damage caused to the popular church.
Callous thieves had stripped lead off the roof, bringing the top part of the 150ft steeple, reputed to be the highest in the Wakefield Diocese, crashing down.
The church roof and interior was badly damaged after the masonry smashed through, destroying pews, a grand piano and leaving the interior under a thick cloud of dust.
Work began this week on repairing the church, starting with the roof. While the clean-up inside the church continues, the hall at the back of the building will be made safe so that it can be used by members of the church for events and possibly services.
Most of the work on the church is expected to be finished by December in time for Christmas services. Work on the steeple is more of a major job and restoration work on it is not expected to be completed until well into next year.
The bill is expected to run into many thousands. It is expected that full restoration of the church will take up to two years.
Grants to repair the listed building have been applied for, but members of the church will have to come up with a lot of the cash themselves. To start the ball rolling towards the fundraising goal, a coffee morning has been organised for this Saturday between 10am and noon.
Other fundraising events are being planned.
Mr Clarke said: “There are a lot people in the community who are very supportive of the church and are eager to see it restored.
“We’re very hopeful that we will have the church open again by Christmas but we’ve a lot of money to raise.
“The coffee morning is the first step. It’s important that we start raising the money now and it’ll be wonderful if lots of people come along on Saturday and support us.”
The coffee morning will be held in the vicarage next to the church. There will also be a number of stalls such as cakes, books and bric-a-brac. Admission is £1.