MYSTERIOUS figures dressed in white robes have been heard praying and chanting before sunrise in woodland at New Lodge.

An Elland Road resident said she had seen people dressed in long white robes going in to the woods, and was woken at 5.30am by the sounds of chants and prayers several times in the last two weeks.

She said: "I'm not sure what they're doing to be honest. It's like a singing or something similar - it's quite strange."

The 12 chanting worshippers are members of an 82-year-old Christian sect called Friday Apostles, who believe in the power of prayer.

The Barnsley group is led by Father Isaiah, real name Leonard Radzokota, who said they're carrying out the early morning ritual to pray for the people of Barnsley.

Father Isaiah lives in New Lodge and said the apostles like to pray in the wood so they can be close to God and nature.

"We come here into the wilderness because everything around us is alive, the grass, the birds, and we are before God.

"We come here to pray because there's a spirit of suicide affecting families and children and there's no peace among the people.

"With the cuts happening, it's very difficult for people right now. Marriages are breaking, families do not know what to do and children are going astray."