CHURCH congregations have increased in numbers since services began taking place online during lockdown.

The district’s clergymen and women said bringing live worship into people’s homes was supporting individuals and families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Church of England, Methodist and Catholic representatives all reported a rise in participation locally, and said some online broadcasts were were also attracting viewers from as far afield as France and Kenya.

The Rev. Tony Buglass of Hexham, is one of several ministers on the Tynedale Methodist Circuit, who have been uploading sermons. He has also been taking part in Bible readings and choir sessions via video call.

He said: “During lockdown more people are getting involved with the church than previously, because we are offering it online. That is one good thing which has come out of this disaster.

“People do have busy lives, and it might be a factor that some people find it easier to attend a service, or a Bible or choir session online.

“But in these times of crisis, people are looking for something to give them support. I am pleased that we can be there for them. It wouldn’t have been possible to communicate in this way 20 years ago.”

Hexham Church of England vicar, the Rev. Jeremy Thompson, said: “Our online services are attracting people from across the Tyne Valley, and our Easter services had viewers from Paris and Kenya. Our oldest online participant was 90 years old.”

Father Christopher Warren, based at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Hexham, said: “From the word go we’ve had up to 150 people taking part in daily mass online, and many more on Sundays.”

All three clergymen acknowledged that not everyone had access to technology, but said church representatives were also keeping in touch with people via telephone.

Father Warren added: “We have to do all we can to bridge the gap during lockdown, and help each other. I’m sure we’ll have a more of an online presence moving forward.”