THOUSANDS of Christians gathered in the centre of Oxford yesterday to pray for the people of the city.

The Love Oxford event attracted about 2,500 people after returning from a year’s hiatus. It was also a return to the city centre after being hosted in South Park for three years.

Love Oxford, which started in 2005, includes an open air morning service, baptisms, prayers and hymns.

It is supported by 30 churches from Oxford and the surrounding area including Emmanuel Church, based at Magdalen College School, Oxford Community Church in St Aldate’s, St Ebbe’s, St Andrew’s and St Clement’s as well as the Christian Life Centre in Cowley Road.

Choir member Holly Osborne, 28, the children’s pastor at St Aldate’s church, said: “This is my first one but I love the fact that it is so many churches together and we come from all different backgrounds.

“It is an amazing experience. It is unique and a real privilege to be able to share in this.”

Nicole Bigler, 37, from Headington, normally goes to Emmanuel Church. She said: “Just being together in so big a number is amazing. There is something so special about so many people worshipping God together. I think Broad Street is a great venue for this.”

Love Oxford had been moved from the city centre to South Park because of complaints the noise disturbed students.

This year two dates in May chosen by organisers were rejected by colleges around Broad Street, so the church leaders picked a date in June instead.

Organiser Matt Partridge, pastor of Emmanuel Church, said: “I would estimate we had something like 2,500 people turn up. It went very well and the weather was kind to us which we are grateful for. We are pleased to be back in Broad Street. It was a great event.”

Last year, the Olympic Torch celebrations in South Park meant a full-scale festival was not held. This means it is the first Love Oxford event held since the death of an organiser, Joanna Braithwaite, in 2011.

Miss Braithwaite, 34, died after an collision with a cement mixer in Woodstock Road.

The Rev Charlie Cleverly, rector of St Aldate’s, said: “It is poignant that this is the first time we have held Love Oxford since her death but the word of the Lord lives on and she would be happy to see this carrying on. This is about loving the city and having hope for all the people from all over the world who live here.

“Oxford has been quite challenged this year economically and people have been reeling from the convictions in the Bullfinch case so it is all the more important to pray for the peace of the city.”