SERVICES were held without light or heat at Oakdale Presbyterian Church after a suspected arson attack damaged the power supply.

The congregation decided it would not be driven from the church following the blaze - and continued with morning service and Sunday school as normal.

Church secretary Barbara Stone said everyone had pulled together over the weekend to make the building fit for use by Sunday.

The fire service was called to the church just after 5pm on Friday, and firefighters took around 20 minutes to put out a blaze in the minister's room at the rear of the church.

Carpets and furniture were destroyed, while the power supply was badly damaged. It is believed the damage could cost thousands of pounds to put right.

South Wales Fire Service said the cause of the blaze is still being investigated, but it is being treated as arson.

Church minister Rev David King said: "If this fire was started deliberately, then frankly it is disgusting.

"It shows a total lack of respect."

Mrs Stone told the Argus that the church was "systematically vandalised" by youngsters for two years.

"They have thrown beer cans and litter in the grounds, broken down the boundary walls and used the stones to destroy the roof tiles.

"They have also thrown things at the windows during services, frightening the congregation," she said.

She added that people had been very upset about the damage to the church.

"It was very sad to see the nativity scene, which the Sunday school children look forward to putting together every year, had been destroyed, and even sadder to see the damage that had been caused to the church Bible that is almost 90 years old.

"The response from neighbours in the village and other churches and chapels in the area has been very heartening and we have been offered facilities to hold our services elsewhere.

"But the congregation is determined not to be driven from this chapel, and have decided to carry on with their own services - without light or heat.

"The congregation is small and not young, but on Saturday they all turned out to do their best to clean up the smoke damage."

Last year the exterior of the chapel was painted with the help of youngsters working with the Princes Trust.