At a time when many churches are facing dwindling congregations and money troubles, one Huddersfield church is growing at an amazing rate. JENNY PARKIN reports.
HUDDERSFIELD Christian Fellowship was founded 20 years ago by a group of friends who would meet at someone's house.
Now services in the 700-seater Harvest House in St John's Road are so full that they've ordered 100 extra chairs.
But this is just a tiny, temporary measure compared with what they'll do next.
The fellowship are planning a multi-million pound building with space for 2,000 worshippers in a huge auditorium with a balcony.
Offices, a coffee shop and bookshop three times bigger than the current one at the fellowship's Northumberland Street base, plus a big children's play area, and an indoor fountain, are all part of the proposed complex.
The plush building, with plenty of steel and glass, will be on St Thomas's Road opposite the Folly Hall entertainment complex.
Plans, including 265 car parking spaces, were today expected to be given the go-ahead by Kirklees Council planners.
The land itself cost £1m and the cost of the building is set to be much more.
The fellowship's pastor, the Rev Colin Cooper, says 90% of the fellowship's cash comes from members - though there are no rules about how much, or how often, they should dig deep and give.
The building fund has also benefited from fundraising events and a church in Greece, which has pledged to hand over 10% of its revenue for the next 12 months, to help.
Colin, 56, of Holmfirth, says: "We'll get money from the sale of Harvest House and our Northumberland Street building.
"We've struck a deal with Kirklees Music School for Northumberland Street, though we'll need it for another couple of years until our new base is built.
"And we will borrow some money from the bank. But the rest comes from members. When we bought Harvest House, we borrowed money over a 25-year period and paid it off in five."
Last year, at least 70 newcomers completed the fellowship's 20-week introductory course.
It's a rate of growth that other churches can only dream of.
They put their popularity down to their emphasis on youth, and good social relationships.
A total of 15 people are employed and many more volunteers help out.
"And we all get along really well," says Colin, who is married with two grown-up children and three grand-daughters.
Plenty of teenagers, they say, turn up for Saturday sessions - music, outings, crafts, the occasional sleepover - and sometimes it's young people who arrive first and bring in their parents.
Plus, there's a lot of joy, they say, in their worship.
Co-ordinator Andrew Kisumba says: "In the Bible it says we should praise God with instruments, drums and strings, and that we should sing new songs as well as old ones.
"We have more than 50 musicians and a choir."
Colin adds: "In some churches it's all standing up and sitting down again and there's no life in the singing.
"We do everything from Amazing Grace to modern songs from all over the world."
Helping people with issues like marital difficulties, depression and drug abuse are also high priorities.
Colin admits that some are wary or suspicious of the fellowship.
He says: "When a church is successful, suspicion is natural. But they come and have a look and they're usually thrilled with what they see."
Colin believes some other churches fail to gain numbers in their congregation because services are stiff and formal.
As they take their ideas directly from the Bible, the fellowship see themselves as more traditional than other churches such as Anglican ones founded at the time of Henry VIII.
Colin says: "People come from all backgrounds, Catholic, Church of England, Baptist, Methodist.
"I was an atheist. I didn't know anything about God until a friend invited me to a service when I was 18. And I loved it, I was amazed."
* The Huddersfield Christian Fellowship's Christmas celebration is on Sunday at 6.30pm, at Harvest House, 23 St John's Road. Call 01484 514088 or go to www.huddersfieldchristianfellowship. com. There will be free coffee and mince pies.