An historic Birmingham church that was destroyed in an arson attack has received an early Christmas present – a new vicar for the parish.
The Bishop of Birmingham Rt Revd David Urquhart announced that the Reverend Freda Evans will take charge of St Barnabas Church, in Erdington.
Revd Evans, who is currently Priest-in-Charge at St Barnabas in Kingshurst, will play an integral role in leading the restoration of the 19th Century church, which was due to celebrate its 150th anniversary next April.
Bishop Urquhart said: "I am absolutely delighted that we are able to appoint a priest of experience and energy to lead this parish, inspire this community and rebuild this church. I have complete confidence that Freda Evans will manage this enormous project and build up St Barnabas with excellent links with local residents, businesses, politicians and civic leaders while communicating through her words and deeds the never-ending love of Jesus Christ.
"I am sure the people of Erdington will welcome Freda as a priest and a new neighbour – she will be in my prayers and I hope she will be in yours too."
The Grade II listed building started life in 1824 as a chapel of rest, designed by Thomas Rickman, a Gothic Revival architect known as "the Christopher Wren of the Midlands".
Aside from the hundreds of weddings, baptisms and funerals that have taken place at St Barnabas' , the church is perhaps best known for its ornate, stained glass windows showed various scenes of the life of Jesus and stories from the scriptures, which depicted eight biblical tales including The Resurrection, The Good Samaritan and St Paul and St Barnabas.
The church was given permission to ring its bells, that were undamaged in the fire, for half an hour before worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Services will be held in St Barnabas School, in Spring Lane, with Midnight Eucharist at 11.30pm and a family service Christmas morning at 9.45am
More than 70 fire fighters battled the blaze for over six hours on October 4, but were unable to save the majority of the 19th-century church.
Church officials have pledged to rebuild St Barnabas as soon as possible, but admit there were many things, including the stained glass windows, which could never be fully replaced.
While the church is being rebuilt, services are planned to be held at nearby St Barnabas School.
Hundreds of worshippers turned out for a special outdoor service on the following Sunday, which included local residents and congregations from neighbouring churches.
The Rev Andy Jolley, the area dean for Aston, said: "People there were determined to continue their worship of God, and continue their service to the community, and in the longer term they were determined to rebuild and restore the church for Erdington."