A dating agency for Christians is being launched in London, another indication of the trend towards niche marketing in the lonely hearts industry.

Now lonely left-wingers can find their ideal match through a socialist-only agency, people with a penchant for well-rounded figures can find solace though Plump Partners, and those with a belief in predestination can contact a clairvoyant dating service.

Helen Boaitey, who describes herself as a committed Christian, said that her own unmarried state was chief inspiration for the venture. 'I want to settle down and get married myself. A lot of my single friends feel the same way. An introduction agency for Christians seemed like the ideal solution. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.'

Miss Boaitey could truthfully describe herself as a 'slim, attractive, intelligent, professional'. But the problem, she says, is that if you are a Christian searching for another Christian, the field is automatically narrowed.

For starters there is the thorny issue of sex.

'At my church sex before marriage is taboo - out of the question. So women and men who believe in that principle are looking for a partner who will understand and respect that right from the start of the relationship. You have to be realistic: what are your chances of meeting that person at a nightclub or down the pub or disco? You might strike lucky, but some Christians will not venture into these places in the first place.'

Nor is the church environment a guarantee of providing the man or woman of your prayers. 'Non-Christians might think that relationships can flourish within the church community. Can you imagine flirting with someone at bible study only to discover they are married or trying to slip your telephone number to another person during the sermon.'

What Miss Boaitey, of north Kensington, plans to provide with Perfect Partners is informal dinner parties for groups as small as six. There will also be 'get togethers' with a cocktail party atmosphere for larger groups, although those who do not drink alcohol can opt for orange juice.

Her agency is open to all denominations but she accepts that the different strands of Christianity may cause disagreements over the dinner table.

'Yes, there are areas where people will disagree - theological and moral issues such as contraception, virginity, women priests, drinking alcohol, even smoking. If it provokes lively discussion and theological debate then that's fine. I think it will be good for people from different denominations to meet.

'What I will not tolerate at these events are direct personal attacks on each other's lifestyles.'

Dinner party membership costs pounds 100 for a year or pounds 50 for six months. Executive membership - for career-orientated professionals seeking the same - costs pounds 200 a year or pounds 110 for six months. Miss Boaitey also plans to offer a service for people who want to meet someone from the same ethnic background, and separate parties for non-Christians who do not place religion as a priority.

'Agony aunt' Karen Krizanovich says that a matchmaking service for Christians is sensible and practical. 'It can be hard for Christians to find their ideal partner, because if you start dating someone and they tell you they are a Christian, you immediately start thinking that this person will not want sex before marriage, and may want you to get up early and go to church with them.

'If you fall in love you will probably stick with it, but at the start of a relationship it can turn some people right off.

'A dating agency for Christians is a good idea. There is, after all, only one Cliff Richard.'

Miss Boaitey, a member of the Pentacostal Jubilee International Church in Maida Vale, has a vision of her perfect man: 'He is tall, from Ghana like me, so we can retire there together without argument. He has a good job and holds the same fundamental beliefs as me.

'But I might fall in love with someone completely the opposite, you have to be flexible - love can catch you unawares.'

Perfect Partners can be contacted at PO BOX 5701 W10 5ZU (081-969 9027).

(Photograph omitted)