Sunday, January 24, 2010

Church of England sees small drop in attendance

While some parts of the Church of England are seeing growth in the numbers of people attending, other areas are witnessing disappointing decline, according to figures out yesterday.

The number of people attending a church service each week fell by one per cent from 978,000 in 2007 to 960,000 in 2008.

Since 2002, the Church of England has seen an overall decline of two per cent in attendance.

The number of under 16s regularly attending church increased by three per cent last year, returning to two per cent below their 2002 level.

Church attendance on other days of the week than Sunday remained steady.

For every 50 people attending services at their local church or cathedral on a Sunday, 10 more attended during the week – an additional 37 people in total over a month.

The Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics, Lynda Barley, said the figures gave an “important but inevitably partial snapshot of today’s Church”.

“They paint a mixed picture for 2008. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under 16s in church increasing and growth in church attendance in 14 out of 44 dioceses, are some disappointments, with further small declines in traditional attendance measures,” she said.

The figures do not include Fresh Expressions of church – new styles of church in cafes, skateparks and other venues - or services in hospitals or educational institutes.

Rev Barley continued: “It is important to see these trends in the context of wider changes in a society where fewer people are willing to join and take part in membership organisations.

“Political parties have seen their memberships fall by around 40 per cent in recent years. Even in a General Election year, almost double the number of members of the three main political parties taken together will attend a Church of England parish church on Sunday.”

The number of people attending service on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day last year remained stable at more than 2.5 million, while the number of people observing Easter fell from just under 1.47 million to 1.41 million.

The number of infant baptisms – children under one year old – fell by two per cent, while the number of marriages taking place in parish churches fell by three per cent to 53,100. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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