A DYNAMIC York church is bucking the national trend on dwindling congregation numbers and planning a major £60,000 extension.

Sunday services at St Michael-le-Belfrey Church, in High Petergate, are bursting to capacity, with a particularly high number of teenagers and students packing the pews.

So much so that officials now hope to take on extra staff and lease two buildings next door to use as an office and church centre.

York Diocese communications officer Martin Sheppard said St Michael's was a "powerhouse" among churches and revealed much was being learned from its commitment and style at drawing new people in. A recent controversial report, commissioned by The Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, recommends six York churches for redundancy and proposes cutting the number of paid clergy and combine several parishes in the city.

St Michael's Church co-ordinator Mark Rance said these were "very exciting" times for the congregation.

He said they planned to lease the next-door buildings and renovate them at a cost of more than £60,000.

"We've had our offices at St Cuthbert's Centre for 20 years, but have now outgrown them and need more room to accommodate our staff," he said.

St Michael's, which adopts a charismatic style of worship at its services, employs 12 staff and has more than 700 members.

Mr Sheppard said: "There is no doubt that nationally church numbers are dwindling. St Michael's is bucking this trend massively and other churches can and do learn from its style.

"It provides a good model to work from. St Michael's is aware it is a powerhouse. Its vigour and momentum is something to be shared with other churches to help them grow."

Updated: 16:17 Thursday, October 31, 2002