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Fire-hit Bangor flock worship in church hall

Fire damage to a 130-year-old Bangor church meant its congregation had to worship in their parish hall on Sunday.

But the spirit of goodwill has been ignited by the plight of the congregation at Bangor Church of Ireland with neighbouring churches offering to help.

Damage caused to the building by a blaze - spotted by chance in the early hours of Thursday morning - is expected to take months to repair.

Two eagle-eyed police officers noticed the blaze shortly after it took hold at 2am last Thursday.

Their efforts and those of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service in North Down saved the church from being completely destroyed, according to the rector.

Rev Nigel Parker who is vicar at the church on Hamilton Road held Sunday service in the neighbouring church hall as preparations got underway to begin repair work.

Rev Parker said the Church of Ireland building suffered substantial damage to a section of the roof as well as to seating and flooring.

"There was damage to the south side of the nave, and a certain section of the roof burned away," he said.

"Inside there is damage to pews and smoke damage.

"It will be out of commission for some time and would need to be rebuilt - I wouldn't have an idea of costs but the materials used are never cheap."

Mr Parker thanked the Fire Service and police for their quick response.

Arson has been ruled out as a cause of the inferno.

"My initial thought would be there is nothing malicious in this," said Rev Parker. "There will be an official report by the fire officers and we will have to wait for that, but there is no hint at this time.

"We do have a very good hall close to the building which is a solid facility where we can temporarily locate to during the months ahead."

Police confirmed they are not treating the fire as suspicious.

Fire station commander James McAllister said his officers' sterling efforts had helped save the building from more significant damage.

North Down DUP MLA Peter Weir said it was a sad blow to the parish and the community.

"I have been down at the scene and although there is damage, thankfully it is contained as it was spotted early," he added.

"Thankfully there was no-one injured in the incident and I would commend the church.

"It's also great to see a rallying round of local churches offering help on what is a very sad day."