CHURCHES around South Yorkshire enjoyed bumper attendances at services throughout the Christmas period.
More than 20 of the 30 churches which took part in a diocese study reported increases in attendance, not only from last year which was low due to snow, but compared with figures for the last three or four years.
St Mary’s Church, Handsworth, Sheffield saw the annual Christmas Eve crib service attended by 139 people – double last year’s figure.
Christ Church Hillsborough and Wadsley Bridge have reported steady growth at their Carols by Candlelight service over the past five years.
The 2011 attendance peaked at 182 compared to 56 in 2007, and the church reports continued rises in attendances during January.
St Mary’s Church, Tickhill, Doncaster, moved its carol service into the week before Christmas and saw the attendance quadruple compared with last year.
Holy Trinity and St Oswald’s, Finningley, started a Christmas Eve Christingle service in 2009 and 100 people came.
The 2011 festive season saw that number more than double, to the point where they could not fit any more into the church.
And so many people attended St Mary’s, Walkley, they ran out of the traditional, decorated Christingle oranges at their Christmas Eve service when an extra 30 people came through the doors, including twice as many adults as last year.
A spokesman for the Diocese said: “These stories are only the tip of the iceberg as many more churches saw increases year upon year.
“It is also encouraging to hear the number of churches who took carols out to the community by singing in local pubs and around the parish.
“After introducing carol-singing in the local pub last year, St Gabriel’s, in Greystones, had to return for two sessions this year, both of which saw the pub bursting at the seams.”
Rev Julian Sullivan of St Mary’s Church in Bramall Lane was touched when out carol-singing. A local teenager directed them to sing outside the house of a lady who had been recently widowed, and she listened from her doorway with a smile. But he said he was unsure why attendances had increased over Christmas.
He said: “Perhaps in these times of austerity people feel the need of something beyond the immediate, the need to be part of something that helps them feel less vulnerable and to value relationships more.
“We have a regular congregation of 50 to 60 adults and 25 children.
“If I was to ask them why they come, I would get just as many different answers.”