CHURCHGOERS have come together to pray for Northwich and combat perceived negativity within the town.

The Diocese of Chester organised the event on Saturday, February 2, with more than 200 people attending at Barons Quay to mark Candlemas by celebrating the positives and praying for a brighter future.

Attendees included town mayor Cllr Alison Gerrard and business leaders, as well as church representatives from Northwich and surrounding villages.

Debbie Dalby, director of social responsibility at the diocese, set about working on the unique idea late in 2018.

She says she had seen negative reports and social media comments surrounding the town centre regeneration, which did not chime with her first-hand impression of the community.

Debbie told the Guardian: “We were talking about how brilliant a town Northwich is, but you wouldn’t necessarily feel it when you see some of the reports about the shopping centre being empty and people on social media saying there is nothing going on.

“When you live in the area and you are active locally, there is a lot going on and a lot to be thankful for. We always look to celebrate what is there and be hopeful for a brighter future.”

The event was planned to take place on Candlemas, which marks the shift from Christmas to looking towards a productive rest of the year.

Candles were lit and prayers said, with a special prayer and hymn for Northwich written for the occasion.

Debbie added: “It was brilliant. It was a really good gathering and people were saying they want to do more.

“Northwich isn’t just a shopping town – shops are hugely important but the town is a lot more than that. The community is so much more than that.

“This event was about getting together and being really positive, praying for a hopeful future and that brighter things are just around the corner.”

The diocese hopes that the fight against social challenges – such as supporting adults and young people with mental health issues and addiction – can be promoted going forward, with volunteers from across the church and business community waiting in the wings to help.