While the frequently heard story is of church attendance declining and buildings closing, a Harrogate church is bucking the trend.
Hope Church, Harrogate doubled in size through 2016 and this month is moving its Sunday service to Ashville College as its previous venue is now too small.
The church, which was founded six years ago, gathered around 100 people at the start of last year. But at Christmas events and continuing through January, more than 200 have regularly been at St Aidan’s School for its Sunday meetings.
Pastor John Payne said: “We are meeting lots of people who don’t know it’s possible to know God personally. With this in mind, it’s our heart that when people come to church they don’t just hear about God but they experience him directly.
“Our meetings are very relaxed. We give time to helping people know how to talk, listen and spend their lives with Jesus.
“We encourage community where people can learn from one another in this. And it’s happening.
“It’s wonderful to hear from so many who have experienced Jesus for the first time and their lives are changing as a result.”
And it’s not only on Sundays that the church has grown. Several new projects have been launched or grown in significance too.
One has practically supported more than 30 new mothers with the essentials that not everyone can afford. Another has helped counsel many couples through pregnancy crises, and regularly provides space for those interested in faith and spirituality to explore Christianity for themselves.
Co-pastor Adam Price said: “I think a significant reason for the growth has been that while we don’t shy away from the difficult parts of the Bible, there is permission and safety here to question and wonder and search.
“Jesus has provided for us and more every step of the way so far. If he causes Hope to double again, we’re sure he’s got another venue for us.”
From Sunday, February 12 Hope Church will meet in the Soothill Hall, Ashville College at 10.30am.