A CHURCH congregation was robbed at knifepoint during a service.

The knifeman escaped with cash he grabbed from a collection plate at Rashcliffe Parish Church (St Stephen’s), but missed another plate with more in it.

Police believe the raider may live in the Rashcliffe area close to St Stephen’s at Lockwood and have appealed for anyone who can name him to come forward.

The 19-strong congregation at the church on St Stephen’s Road, between Lockwood Road and Victoria Road, was singing the final hymn at 11.40am on Sunday, at the end of an hour-long service, when the man walked into the back of the church

The church has two collection plates, one for general church funds and the other specifically for work needed to maintain the building.

One plate had been put on top of the other at the back of the church, just behind treasurer Dennis Calvert.

Churchgoers believe the robber thought there was only one plate and so grabbed cash from the top one, missing more money on the one beneath.

Mr Calvert, 66, said: “We have had three lightning conductors stolen from the church over the last three years and the latest one has just been replaced.

“We were holding the service, led by a visiting lay preacher, in the Minor Hall next to the church entrance because of work going on on the roof.

“I noticed the man come in just before we started on the final hymn.

“He sat down on the side opposite me, but as we started to sing he quickly got up and looked as if he was going to walk out.

“Then he suddenly grabbed the money from the collection plate and started to scoop it up.

“Most of it was notes and instinctively I went to stop him as he tried to get out of the door.

“A brave lady churchwarden tried to help and we were scuffling with him when he suddenly pulled out a large kitchen knife and said: “I’ll knife you.’’

“I managed to get my hand behind his wrist, but he levered me off and the knife fell to the floor.’’

Mr Calvert put his foot on the weapon, but the attacker managed to lever him off it and picked it up.

Mr Calvert said: “The rest of the congregation told me to let him go. They were worried someone could get hurt.’’

The robber is thought to have fled with less than £50.

Mr Calvert quickly chained the door and phoned the police while the congregation finished the service.

“There had been a bit of mayhem with all this going on,’’ said Mr Calvert. “But we finished the day off as normal with coffee and biscuits.’’

He said he had not been affected by the experience.

“I drank my coffee, ate my biscuit and slept like a log on Sunday night,’’ he said. “No-one was hurt and that is the most important thing of all.

“For the man to do something like this he must be in terrible straits and in some mental torment.’’

The raider is white, in his late 20s to early 30s, 5ft 11in tall. He is very pale and of slim to average build.

He wore a creamy hat with a reddish mark on and a very light, possibly cream, quilted jacket.

Det Sgt Jim Carter from Huddersfield police intelligence unit said: “This is a very unusual offence. We have had items stolen from churches before, but never a robbery at knifepoint during a service.

“We believe the robber may live locally and would urge anyone who recognises the description or saw him on Sunday to come forward.’’

Contact acting Det Sgt Simon Archer at Kirklees CID on 0845 6060606.