EXUBERANT crowds packed into the heart of Oxford yesterday to celebrate the many faces of Christianity at a summer festival.

Thousands of worshippers, families, visitors and passers-by congregated in Broad Street on Sunday for the return of LOVE Oxford, a huge open-air service bringing together churches great and small from across the city.

Hymns, prayers and gospel music boomed from the stage while youngsters were handed goody bags filled with books, bubbles and colouring pens to take home.

The event was co-ordinated by staff and volunteers from St Aldate’s Church.

Member Annie Barrell, who joined youngsters onstage and was taking part in LOVE Oxford for the first time, said: “It’s fabulous. I’m pleased to see so many people here.

“It’s amazing that so many want to come out and it shows the diversity within the church.”

Visitors came from churches from across the city, with a heavy presence from the Christian Life Centre off Cowley Road.

Representing possibly the most far-flung place of worship was Drew Krum, 49, who was in the UK for a business trip but is a regular frequenter of Saddleback Church in California.

He said: “I wanted to come to Oxford and a friend told me she knew a pastor out here. The timing is awesome.

“I absolutely didn’t expect this. It’s amazing; I love it when preachers get together. It’s a better expression of God’s love for the world.

“The world is so focused on fear and uncertainty and doubt.

“It’s easy as a Christian to lose sight of what’s important so these events are critical.”

LOVE Oxford was first launched in 2005 in Broad Street and now attracts crowds of up to 4,000 people over the space of about two hours.

It was moved to South Park in 2009 following complaints that noise was preventing students from revising, but returned to Broad Street in 2015 with slightly adjusted dates.

Botley resident Andrew Clark, 42, a member of Oxford Community Church who attended with four-year-old daughter Ana, said: “It’s actually nicer to have it a little bit later in the summer.

“Oxford is such a busy city so you get lots of passing traffic as well. People are slightly bemused, but I’ve seen a lot of people stopping and listening.”

He added: “Most of the time we are working behind the scenes, with charities and other organisations.

“It’s always important to let people know that as churches we are concerned about our city.”