Arson attack closes a Methodist church for Christmas
A church which also offers a night shelter to homeless refugees has been severely damaged in an arson attack.
Police branded the blaze at Heaton Park Methodist Church in Bury on Saturday evening as "disgusting".
Its pastor Rev Jez Hackett said: "This is a pretty nasty thing to happen, particularly at this time of year."
Thieves stole a laptop and projector equipment in the raid. No-one was hurt in the blaze but the congregation has had to relocate its Christmas services.
"Thankfully the Prestwich Methodist Church is just down the road so we will be moving services there," the pastor said.
"But we also run a night shelter for refugees and offer food for children on free school meals, so we don't know what is going to happen with that now."
Church authorities said the fire damage, which will require "extensive repairs", means the building is not expected to reopen until mid-January at the earliest.
Ch Insp Jamie Collins, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "There's no way to describe the offenders' actions, other than to say they were disgusting.
"To break into a church, set a fire and then steal valuables would be bad enough any other time of the year but to do it a few days before Christmas, which is a time when many people turn to their church, is nothing short of disgusting."