IT WILL be a least a year before worshippers can return to a parish church ravaged by fire.

The roof of St Andrew’s Church in Timsbury, near Romsey, was destroyed in a blaze earlier this month,believed to have been caused by an electrical fault.

Parish warden Catherine Baker said worshippers were likely to have at least a year to wait before they could return to the church.

“We’ve been told that it will be 12 to 18 months before the church can be used again for services,” she said.

“We’ve only got a small congregation, but they have all got tremendous faith.

“We had to hold services elsewhere before [after part of the ceiling collapsed in 2007], so we are used to having to make do for somewhere to hold our services, but the church is the people, not the building,” added Mrs Baker.

She said that for the time being, services were being held at the Jubilee Hall and Poppies Tearoom.

Mrs Baker said that specialist teams had been at work at St Andrew’s this week clearing |up debris.

“An insurance company is now in charge of the church and work started on making the churchyard safe on Monday.

“Two companies are involved in the clean-up. One has done the grounds and a specialist company is doing the inside of the church,” added Mrs Baker.

“We don’t know the cost at the moment, but hopefully the insurance will cover most |of it.”

Mrs Baker said a wooden cross and two candlesticks had been loaned for services by Hannah and Sarah Boothman, daughters of the late Canon Boothman, a former rector of St Andrew’s.

Mrs Baker said: “We are very honoured to be able to use them at our services, because Canon Boothman used them throughout the Second World War, when he was in the North African campaign with the Army. They are quite small and have a wonderful story behind them.”

On Sunday, people in Timsbury will join forces with residents of nearby Michelmersh, Braishfield, Farley Chamberlayne and Awbridge for a Mothering Sunday service for the whole benefice at All Saints Church, Awbridge, at 10am, conducted by the rector, Canon Steve Pittis.

n Focus on Faith – page 43