VANDALS desecrated a church, damaging a prayer box, ripping up hymn books and setting off fire extinguishers.

The yobs took advantage of the open door policy at St Mary’s Parish Church, in Old Road, Frinton.

But volunteers have worked hard to make sure the church has stayed open, despite the incident on New Year’s Day.

Peter Wood, church warden, said: “It looked awful. It was a real mess. It could well have been youngsters, or it could have been someone angry at God.

“We don’t know, but anyone who targets a church like this is the lowest of the low. The people responsible are deplorable.’’ Mr Wood added: “Maybe they were looking for money or wine, but we never keep either on the premises.

“Once we straightened it up, it wasn’t too bad, but it was a horrible thing to happen.”

The church is kept open to the public throughout the week during daylight hours.

Mr Wood said: “We are really blessed to be able to keep the church open during the day and we want to continue to do that.

“It is a valuable community asset people can use as they need to, even if it is just as a place for quiet reflection.

“It would be very sad to have to close if this sort of behaviour continues, but that is very much a last resort.”

The incident is being investigated by police and anyone with information should call 101.

Mr Wood praised the police for going to “extraordinary lengths’’ to help.

He said: “We also want the community to help us keep an eye out, report incidents or suspicious behaviour and make sure this does not happen again.”