Flocking back to the church

CHURCHES, TOGETHER: The Rev Roger Smith, Whitechapel church wardens Tom Pinder and Trevor Bowers, with the Rev Ian Bullock, are pleased church numbers are increasing.
CHURCHES, TOGETHER: The Rev Roger Smith, Whitechapel church wardens Tom Pinder and Trevor Bowers, with the Rev Ian Bullock, are pleased church numbers are increasing.

CHURCH attendances more than doubled in the Spen Valley this Christmas, prompting questions on whether the recession has rekindled people’s religious faith.

Churches in the Parish of Cleckheaton – comprising Whitechapel, St John’s and St Luke’s Churches – saw the biggest increase in congregation numbers last month. There were more than 2,800 people passing through the doors of the three churches, compared to nearly 1,300 in December 2010.

The Rev Brunel James said the increase was encouraging and it could be due to several factors, including the warmer weather compared to last winter’s big freeze and the number of community and family activities in the run up to Christmas.

Mr James added: “I think it was partly due to the temperature – there was a 19 degree increase, which is massive. Also with the recession, people seem to be valuing local things like going to church, because they are things money just can’t buy.”

Elsewhere, the Rev Roger Smith, of the Cleckheaton Methodist Church, said his congregation had grown as well, with 10 new members turning up for a recent Sunday service.

In Heckmondwike, Holy Spirit Catholic Church saw an increase in the number of people turning up for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve. However, Father John Abberton said it was too early to say why this was the case.

“I would expect the number to go up for the foreseeable future in all churches, because when times are hard, people are made to think more about what life is about.”

The Rev Ian Bullock – priest in charge of Norristhorpe All Souls, Christ Church Liversedge and St James’s, in Heckmondwike – said between 1,400–1,500 people passed through the churches during the week leading up to Christmas.

He added: “I’m delighted that people are coming back to church. Maybe it is time for people to stop looking inward in their lives and start looking outward and move forward in their lives.”