EVIL was at work in Radcliffe on the holiest day of the Christian calendar.

And Minister the Rev Kevin Jones believes the vandals who desecrated Close Methodist Church on Easter Sunday have incurred the wrath of God.

The sacrilegious act took place between the morning and evening services at the Bury Street church.

Hooligans gained access by hurling a brick through the window of a meeting room at the back of the building.

A horrified Mr Jones discovered the shocking aftermath when he went to open the church at 5.30pm for the 6pm service.

"It touched the pit of my stomach and made me feel sick," he said.

Paint and glue were used to cause hundreds of pounds worth of damage as they were poured over seats, walls and floors.

Pornographic messages and images were daubed on the walls. The graffiti included boasts of sexual activity in the communion area and a death-wish on the elderly members of the congregation.

A large brass cross presented to the church in 1931 was completely covered in paint, as was every key on the church organ. "If it got inside the workings then the whole organ will have to be replaced at a minimum cost of £10,000," said Mr Jones.

Bibles were shredded and an Easter display by the children of Radcliffe Hall CE and Methodist Primary School was destroyed, with decorated eggs smashed against the floors and walls.

Mr Jones believes the intruders were motivated by evil forces.

"To desecrate a church on Easter Sunday in this way suggests it was a deliberately pointed attack. They almost had a spiritual motive, as if evil was guiding them."

The style and nature of the messages and damage suggests teenagers are responsible. The names Mat, Lee and Ian C. occur in some of the graffiti.

"There must have been at least four of them, including one female, and I reckon they spent about an hour inside the building," said Mr Jones.

He is hoping that the consciences of their parents are pricked and that the vandals can be caught before they continue their rampage of destruction.

Due to the damage, the united evening service planned for members of Close Methodist Church and Radcliffe Parish Church had to be cancelled.

Amazingly, Mr Jones feels no anger at the perpetrators.

"I feel sorrow for these people with their empty hearts and faithless souls. The church they came to destroy is here for them. It can give them hope in their emptiness."

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