METAL thieves stripped lead off a village church over the Easter weekend.

The thieves — who netted themselves £30 worth of the metal but caused at least £1,000 worth of damage — were last night condemned for targeting Grove Parish Church over such a religious weekend.

They stole about 30kg of the metal and struck on the night of Good Friday or early the following day.

Chairman of Grove Parish Council Frank Parnell said: “It is desecration.

“It is disgraceful to do it to church property. People of the village worship there and it has been defaced.

“It’s not the best of things to happen to any property let alone a church over a special weekend.”

St John the Baptist Church in Main Street was built in 1965 and has about 200 worshippers.

Lead was taken from the church entrance and the neighbouring St John’s Rooms.

Church warden Sue Parnell said the bill was likely to be more than £1,000 but the church also had the hassle of organising the repairs.

She said: “They (the thieves) are obviously just out to get what money they can. It’s a shame as the little gain they will get, spoils so much for so many people.

“The time and expense of it all is going to be enormous compared to the amount they have taken.”

She added: “It’s disappointing whenever it happens but to do it on Good Friday is really quite sad.”

Congregation members came forward on Saturday to cover the damage with sheets of tarpaulin.

Church warden Martin Watson said: “Easter is a time when we think about Jesus and all the good stuff he did so it is disappointing and frustrating this has happened.

“The mood was one of disappointment that people could commit such crimes against the church.”

Zoe Patrick, Oxfordshire County Council member for Wantage and Grove, said: “It’s a terrible thing to have happened and especially over Easter. It is just so insensitive.

“It is a blow to the whole community. Words can’t describe how sad I am that something like this can happen so close to home.”

Police spokesman Adam Fisher said the thieves used a wheelie bin to get on the roof between 6pm on Friday and 10.15am on Saturday.

Paul Jarvis, from L Jarvis and Sons scrap metal dealers in Middleton Cheney near Banbury, said 30kg of lead would be worth no more than £30.

The lead was marked with the colourless Smartwater dye which can be detected by ultra-violet light and is used by police to identify stolen property.

The SS Peter and Paul church in neighbouring Wantage was targeted a year ago and a small amount of lead on the porch roof was stolen.

Anyone with any information should contact the police via 101.