Windows at a struggling church have been smashed by stones.

On Sunday afternoon worshippers at St Peter's Church in Ongar discovered broken glass strewn across the insides of the Victorian building.

Eight of its windows had been smashed.

Reverend Noelle Taylor, the rector, said: "We have had some youngsters throwing stones and breaking eight windows at St Peter's.

"It has made a nasty mess inside with all the broken glass. They are lead lined windows.

"It happened sometime on Sunday afternoon, although there weren't services on Sunday."

While the windows are fortunately neither stained glass nor hugely valuable, repairing the damage is a burden for an already struggling church.

Rev Taylor added: "The thing is with St Peter's is that we are probably going to shut it down eventually.

"This just adds to the problem.

"Most churches are finding it really hard at the moment because the main way they get money is through the congregation.

"There are 17 churches for only 14,000 people around here. That's people, not Christians.

"It's a huge number."

With the flock spread so thinly across the countryside around Ongar, making ends meet is increasingly difficult.

Rev Taylor added: "Most of the churches are listed so there is a limit to what you can do.

"There is a service held at St Peter's on the third Sunday of every month.

"Only five people are in St Peter's parish.

"Others come over from the other churches.

"It is a beautiful little building but it is in the middle of no where."