A CHURCH congregation has been forced to look for new premises after fire gutted a children's prayer room on Saturday night.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Centre Approach, Micklefield, will need a new home for at least three months following the blaze, which is believed by firefighters to have been started by arsonists.

The fire spread to the church, which is opposite the community centre, after a wheelie bin was set alight at the rear of the building.

A children's worship room was badly damaged and soft toys and other items were destroyed in the blaze, which happened around 10.20pm.

However, the main bulk of the building remains intact.

Rodney Bullock, 39, treasurer of the church, said: "We are definitely looking for alternative premises for at least three months, that is something that the board has decided."

Mr Bullock added that the church had been targeted by vandals before, but had never been set alight. He said: "We have made so many security measures. We have gone to the expense of putting shutters on one side of the building but when this happens what can you do?"

The fire was under control by 10.45pm.

Bill MacDermot, 78, of Micklefield Road, watched the blaze from his bedroom.

He said: "It was more smoke than fire. I had just gone to bed when it happened."

Steve Hawkins, watch manager at High Wycombe fire station, said two fire engines rushed to the scene. He said: "We have had to do quite a lot of cutting away in the church itself. The fire basically, from the bin, broke through the window and into the church.

"It is quite damaged. We have had to take off a lot of the plaster board just to check there was no fire spread."

The church hosts worship mainly on Saturdays and members left the building following a service at 1pm.