A BISHOP has praised a Huddersfield congregation’s reaction to the damage caused by thieves who raided their church.
Stephen Platten, bishop of the Church of England’s Wakefield diocese, was at a ceremony at St John’s Church in Birkby last night to install Sue Clarke as vicar.
The church is open again after months of repair work following the massive damage caused by a burglary last July.
The steeple came crashing down when thieves tried to rip off the copper lightning conductors from the roof.
The incident meant the church had to close, forcing the congregation to hold joint services at Christ Church Woodhouse.
It also delayed the official installation of the Rev Clarke, who took over in November, as the priest.
Bishop Stephen said: “It was tragic what happened, particularly when it was just at the moment when we were about to induct a new priest.
“But it seems to me that it has led to the congregation being remarkable in their response.
“It has provoked them into action and, as with lots of these kind of things, something really positive has come out of the tragedy.”
The church’s insurers agreed to pay out £750,000 to cover the damage caused directly by the incident.
But the church has to find another £100,000 to repair related damage to the heating system, plastering and decoration.
It also wants to improve security measures to deter would-be thieves in future.
A major fundraising campaign was launched, which included a Songs of Praise-style concert at Huddersfield Town Hall this month.
Since the incident, the church has carried out work to repair the inside of the building and will be meeting there from now on.
Church warden Tony Clarke said: “We are pleased with how things have gone and it’s smashing to be open again.
“Everything had to be ready for the ceremony, so the builders pulled out all the stops.”
Prof Owen Chadwick, former curate at the church and one of the country’s foremost church historians, sent a personal message of support for last night’s ceremony.
Finishing touches are now being put to the inside of the church and work will start to repair the spire. It is expected to be finished by late summer.