Taranaki's religious leaders have been delighted to see families worshipping as groups this festive season.
Hundreds of people from around the region flocked to Christmas church services yesterday.
Midnight mass was an extra special occasion at the Taranaki Cathedral when a new lighting system which aims to showcase the facility, deter vandals and improve safety was officially turned on.
Dean Jamie Allen said there had been great congregations at the cathedral.
"It has to be a record," Mr Allen said.
"Over our three Christmas services we have seen around 900 people come and share the joy and delight of all that the season means."
Mr Allen said he was overwhelmed to see so many families and children pouring in.
"Later on, during the service, I noticed a lovely peaceful corner of the church where children had been snuggled down to sleep at the midnight hour. It was incredibly moving to see children, secure, warm, at home and sleeping in the sacred space of the service."
He said there was applause and cheers as the new lighting system was blessed.
"The lights will be shining out all night, every night, and at the moment are set for a beautiful warm gold colour for Christmas, with the Star of Bethlehem as our inspiration."
The full system includes the illumination of the stained glass windows, and three reconditioned Victorian streetlamps alongside the path.
Jocelyn Benefield, Stratford Salvation Army treasurer, said about 60 people attended the church's 10am service yesterday.
"It's maybe a little bit up on last year," she said. "More people are bringing their families to worship together as opposed to coming by themselves."
Mrs Benefield said she was delighted to see the family groups as Christmas was all about togetherness.
Father Tom Lawn, of St Joseph's in Hawera, said about 450 people attended a service on Christmas Eve while another 200 were at mass yesterday.
"It's probably just about over twice what we would get on a usual Sunday, which is pretty good - a lot of people made the effort." He said it was good to see family groups at the services.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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