St Giles's church in Durham City needed sprucing up and parishioners volunteered to give it a lick of paint. But they did a "botched job", and the Rev Tom Thubron has been called to account. He is accused of allowing the church to be damaged with modern paints and varnishes and industrial power tools.
In all, 21 flaws have to be accounted for when Mr Thubron appears before Judge Robert Bursell QC, Chancellor of the Durham Diocese, tomorrow to explain why the work was carried out without permission from the church's planning board. If the court rules that the parishioners breached the rules, they may have to remedy the work at their own expense.
The problem came to light after a church council member, Michael Richardson, complained to the diocese that the works on the Grade 1 listed building, dating from 1112, were carried out without permission. He also complained that his parochial church council (PCC) colleagues did a botched job.
"The oak door, which dates from the restoration of 1872 to 1876, was woodstained and varnished by a member of the congregation who thought it looked weathered. It doesn't look like an oak door any more," he said.
"An attachment on the shield of the 16th-century effigy of John Heath, Lord of the Manor, has been painted with gloss paint. [And] the sanding of the church floor was done with an industrial sander and has caused unevenness and gouges."
He also claims a wall cupboard was screwed to rare medieval stone work and some roof beams were touched up with inappropriately bright paint.
The Rev Stephen Conway, a diocesan spokesman, said works had been undertaken at St Giles at the behest of the PCC, but did not appear to have planning permission. He insisted that the PCC and Mr Thubron had not tried to keep the repairs secret. Neither could be contacted last night.