WORSHIPPERS at a Birkby church have shown true grit in the aftermath of a botched theft which left their church terribly damaged.
They have set up a new group to raise funds to help pay to sort out the mess left behind by copper thieves.
The New Friends of St John’s Church met at the church vicarage yesterday to discuss how to preserve the building for future generations.
The church suffered huge damage when its spire dramatically collapsed on July 24 this year.
Metal thieves tried to pull the copper lightning conductor from the steeple by fastening a cable to the conductor, tying one end to a car which drove down the path next to the church pulling the copper from the side of the steeple.
Click here to see a photo gallery of the damage.
The top of the steeple was pulled off and sent two tonnes of stone crashing down through the church, causing major damage to the walls, roof, floors, pews, pianos, heating system, carpets and stonework.
Church warden Tony Clarke said the new group would keep people up to date on the repair work – and try to find new ways of raising funds for the Grade II listed church.
He said: “Many local people were appalled when they found out what happened. We have had a lot of interest from people who we didn’t expect to be interested.”
The spire has now been deemed unsafe and has to be supported before work can start on the church roof. Once that is done, work can start inside and, finally, the 170ft spire will be taken down and entirely rebuilt.
Mr Clarke said: “We were hoping to be in for Christmas, but we don’t know. At the moment the job has stopped. It’s a waiting game.
“We can’t use the church. Annoyed doesn’t cover how we feel about the damage. When we went in it looked like the Blitz – it seemed like there had been an explosion.”
Most of the cost of the repairs will be covered by the church’s insurance.
No figure has been put on the final bill, but it is expected to be a huge sum.
The church will also face extra expenses, including decorating and new security measures.
Mr Clarke hopes the new group will help raise funds for ongoing costs such as heating, lighting and maintenance too.
“The present church family is not large enough to cover all the costs entailed in maintaining a building like St John’s,” he said.
“We hope to attract people who are interested in church buildings and their history and would like to see them preserved for this and future generations and feel they could contribute financial help in some way.”
This could be through personal donations or organising fundraising events.
Until St John’s Church can be used, the congregation are meeting at Woodhouse Church in Fartown.
The churches will be sharing a vicar by next year, following a merger.
Mr Clarke said: “We do have connections with the church so it is all right for us using it. We really need to keep things functioning somehow because we need to retain the congregation.”