A church which has a history of serving a town centre for hundreds of years has welcomed a wealth of new members to its congregation.

St Margaret's, in Windsor Street, Uxbridge, was built about 800 years ago, when a rapidly growing population meant St John's Church, in nearby Hillingdon, could not cope with demand.

Sadly, 35 years ago the church lost much of its membership, partly due to a damp and leaking building.

Ever since then the church clergy have made a concerted effort to attract new people and for the last 14 years this has been a task shouldered by its vicar The Reverend Andrew Sheard.

Under his stewardship St Margaret's can now boast a congregation of about 350 adults, plus a cafe, two parent and toddler groups, a bereavement service and breakfast and lunch events.

The latest idea was to hold a Back to Church Week where everyone was asked to bring along a friend or relative who hadn't been to church for a long time.

Speaking at the conclusion of the event, Mr Sheard was delighted to have seen extra chairs filled at every service and hoped a large number of returning visitors had been persuaded to stay for good.

He said: "We like to think of ourselves as being a church for all people. It is not just about a Sunday service anymore, we have different congregations which meet for different reasons throughout the week.

"Our location in the town centre puts us in a different position to some churches; on one hand we can regularly have up to 130 people in during the week which is wonderful, but it has meant we have had to change the way we worship."

In order to make the newcomers feel especially welcome Mr Sheard arranged for a number of his long standing parishioners to be inter-viewed during the week and share the reasons they come to church.

Among those taking part were Penny and Henry Guy, of Uxbridge, who married in the church 40 years ago and have been a part of it ever since.

Mr Guy said: "I come from a Christian background but did not really find my own faith until I was a teenager. Now I look to God in everything I do and my work in the church keeps me very busy and very happy.

"I remember the days when St Margaret's was really struggling. There was a time when the number of people at Sunday service was about the same as what we now get on a Friday!"

His wife added: "The key thing for me is the church is a community, it has supported us throughout our lives and we know it will continue to do so, no matter what comes along."

Another devoted worshipper is Patrick Colbert, originally from Ireland now living in Uxbridge, who joined St Margaret's six years ago after a break from church of more than 40 years.

He said: "I used to walk past all the time and hear the music and the hymns and wanted to go inside but I lacked the courage after so long away from religion.

"Eventually I attended a carol service one Christmas and it was so amazing, I was welcomed as if I had been coming here for years. I knew then it was where I belonged."

Mr Sheard was most keen to introduce Neena Sudhera, who has decided to join St Margaret's purely on the strength of the Back to Church Week.

She said: "I stopped in the cafe inside the entrance and could see the people praying in the main church. I went in and it was all so peaceful - I loved everything about it.

"I have had some troubles in my life which I asked the vicar to pray for me about. I have been in several churches in my life but this was the first time I truly felt I belonged."

Mr Sheard said: "Neena is typical of a lot of people who experience some hardship and want God's guidance but are not confident enough to ask for it themselves. They ask for our help and support and gradually find their own sense of faith and belonging.

"People like Patrick and Penny and Henry do all they can to help in this way and their warmth and spirit is what makes St Margaret's such a wonderful place to be."

In keeping with its desire to move with the times the church has recently launched a project called Soul Cafe based at Baroosh wine bar which provides lunchtime sessions for workers in the town who don't have time for full church services.