A vicar who was once chased by a mob who had set fire to his church is to leave Bradford for a new parish in the West Midlands.

The Reverend Tony Tooby paid tribute to Bradford and its “fantastic” people as he announced his eventful stint at St Philip’s Church, Girlington, would end on Sunday, December 13, when he moves to Mancetter, in the Diocese of Coventry.

He said: “I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at St Philip’s, Girlington and Bradford for all their love and support during my time.

“I have been in Bradford for 11 years and had some ups and downs – more ups.” Mr Tooby, originally from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, said the high point of his stay had been the way the people had made him and his young family feel so welcome.

The low point was in 2001 when he was chased from his blazing church by a gang of 50 Asian youths hurling stones.

“I had never been racially abused before and it was a strange feeling,” he said.

“Having someone trying to burn down the church was hard for me to understand,” said Mr Tooby.

After the attack was roundly condemned by church leaders and members of the Muslim community, Mr Tooby set about trying to build relationships in the community, strengthening links between Christians and Muslims.

The church is now used four times a week for English classes. “It’s to help Asian people learn English so they can move on and get better lives,” said Mr Tooby.

St Philip’s enjoyed a £60,000 makeover in 2005, including a modernised church hall, and Mr Tooby said the congregation had stabilised despite the loss of several stalwarts.

Mr Tooby has often displayed an eye for the unusual, as in 2002 when he opened his church to football fans to watch the World Cup final between Brazil and Germany on a big screen.

He said he was proud to have played a part in a long-running project to bring about a new St Philip’s CE Primary School to replace the temporary buildings that had been used for two decades.

Last year he spoke out against a decision to cancel a St George’s Day parade in Bradford on “health and safety grounds”.

He said he had decided to move on because he felt it was time to look for a fresh challenge.

e-mail: will.kilner@telegraphandargus.co.uk