PARISHIONERS have been forced to guard their own church overnight to prevent repeated attempts to steal metal from the roof of their church.
The copper roof of Trinity Methodist Church has proved a magnet for raiders with around 10 thefts or attempted raids at the Fleetwood Road venue in recent months.
Members of the congregation have even kept overnight watch at the church in a bid to deter thieves.
Minister Rev Anne Jeffrey said making repairs in metal would only add yet more potential booty for the thieves.
Two men were arrested by police after being found on the roof. But after persistent problems, church members decided enough was enough and have launched a £20,000 fundraising drive to replace the copper on the roof with fibre glass.
Church council secretary Geoff Bottomley said: “Someone might make £30 from selling copper to a dodgy dealer but it costs us £1,500 to £2,000 to repair it. The only way forward is to get rid of the copper to remove the temptation.”
The church has been told its insurance will not pay for the full cost of repairs.
But parishioners have raised £3,500 from gifts and loans – and they hope to sell the remaining copper for about £5,000.
They have also been offered an interest-free loan by another Methodist church.
After an emergency meeting this month, pleas for help were being made to other churches, the Lofthouse Foundation – run by Fisherman’s Friend boss Doreen Lofthouse – and Fleetwood Town Council.
Because of the copper thefts, the interior of the building is at risk from water damage and preliminary work on the new roof has already begun.
Rev Jeffrey added: “Over recent months our church building has been attacked on about 10 occasions by persons trying to and, on most occasions succeeding in, stealing copper.
“The use of Smartwater, CCTV and members and friends staying all night in the building, and the police catching two people on the roof, have not stopped the attacks. Repairing the roof with copper is not an option – it merely provides potential further income for thieves.
“Our church is not merely a place of worship. It provides a safe place to meet for various community groups.
“Sure Start, Fleetwood Art Group, a calligraphy group, Weight Watchers, Fleetwood Camera Club, Fleetwood Travel Group, line dancers and two local bands use our premises regularly.
Other groups include Women’s Institute, Cancer Research and union groups from Hesketh House also use them.”