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Provisional attendance figures for 2008 released: attending a local CofE church is part of a typical week for 1.1 million people

The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England show that around 1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services each month, and around 1.1 million attend church as part of a typical week - and not just on a Sunday.

Regular attendance
The total number of adults, children and young people regularly attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the six years since 2002, with the 2008 figures showing a drop of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in 2007. The number of under 16s increased by three per cent over the year, returning to two per cent below their 2002 level. 

People continue to attend church on other days than Sunday.  For every 50 people attending church or cathedrals on a typical Sunday, another 10 attend during the week and an extra 37 in total over a month.

The Revd Lynda Barley, the Church of England's Head of Research and Statistics, comments: "The figures released today, covering regular local church attendees, give 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. Excluded from these figures are Fresh Expressions, chapel services in hospitals, education and other establishments, some international congregations and the projects funded by the Youth Evangelism Fund.

"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 organizations. 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."

  • In summary: Average weekly attendance was down slightly at 1,145,000 (2007: 1,160,000; 2006: 1,163,000), as was average Sunday attendance at 960,000 (2007: 978,000; 2006: 983,000) and average monthly attendance at 1,667,000 (2007: 1,690,000; 2006: 1,694,000). The average number of children and young people at services each week rose by three per cent to 225,000 (2207: 219,000; 2006: 228,000). The number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis also grew three per cent to 438,000 (2007: 424,000; 2006: 442,000).

 

Marking life events

The total number of baptisms remained stable, with increases in the number of 'child' and 'adult' baptisms (those aged one year and older). The number of 'infant' baptisms (under one year old) fell by two per cent. The number of Thanksgivings for the birth of a child fell by five per cent.

The number of marriages taking place in parish churches fell by three per cent to 53,100 (significant changes to marriage law which widened the number of churches where couples are eligible to be married did not take effect until October 2008 and their effect is not, therefore, fully reflected in these figures). Blessings of marriages following a civil ceremony fell (by three per cent, to 4,400). The total number of weddings in the UK in 2008 has not yet been published, although numbers have been falling by around three per cent each year in recent years.

The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England also dropped (by three per cent, to 188,100), particularly those taking place in crematoria (by five per cent, to 93,600); this is against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of deaths fell by 1.4 per cent between 2007 and 2008).

More than nine in ten Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts, representing the highest participation rate ever.  These have been verified across all 16,000 Church of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops' Council. The provisional figures can be seen on the web at: www.cofe.anglican.org/info/statistics/2008provisionalattendance.pdf.

 

Celebrating festivals

The trend detected in recent years whereby attendance dips when Christmas Day falls on a weekday continued in 2008, with attendance over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day remaining similar to that in 2007. Attendances and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday fell by around four per cent against 2007.

  • In summary: Attendance at Church of England local church services on Christmas Eve/Day 2008 remained broadly similar at 2,647,200 (2007: 2,656,800; 2006: 2,994,100). These figures do not include the large number attending at other services related to Christmas ,for example, carol services during Advent. Easter observance dropped back by three per cent to 1,415,800 (2007: 1,469,000; 2006: 1,484,700).

The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish churches remained stable, as expected following the major revision reported in 2007's statistics. The historic 'usual Sunday attendance' measure (see note below for definition) fell three per cent to 845,000 (2007: 868,000; 2006: 871,000).

Separate research published today surveying the diversity of Church of England congregations, called Celebrating Diversity in the Church of England, is available at: www.cofe.anglican.org/about/gensynod/agendas/feb2010/gsmisc/gsmisc938.doc.

 

Notes

* Fresh Expressions is a movement led by the Church of England and the Methodist Church to nurture contemporary forms of church life alongside traditional ones (www.freshexpressions.org.uk). Fresh Expressions are being formed in a variety of ways, from new congregations targeting particular groups such as Goths, to café churches and skateboard parks.

** The Youth Evangelism Fund is supported by the Archbishops' Council (50 per cent), the Henry Smith Charity, the Laing Family Trusts, and the Jerusalem Trust. It aims to enable more young people to connect with the Gospel and develop faith within the life of the Church by allowing young people to share faith with their peers in ways that make sense to them. Each year for five years, eight to 10 dioceses are receiving YEF support to resource new ideas for mission.

 

Membership of the three main political parties has fallen from a total of c.781,000 in 2000, to c.476,000 in 2008. Taken from House of Commons Library research paper, August 2009: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-05125.pdf

 

Definition of terms

Average Sunday attendance: the average number of attendees at Sunday church services, typically over a four-week period in October.

Average weekly attendance: the average number of attendees at church services throughout the week, typically over a four-week period in October.

Each of the above measures is provided separately for adults and children/young people aged under 16 years. The highest and lowest counts over the four-week period are calculated as follows:

Highest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the highest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period. The 'highest' figures on the accompanying tables are proxies (in fact under-estimates) for monthly attendance levels.

Lowest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the lowest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period.

Attendance figures are only included where local churches held at least one church-based service (which included adult presence) during the week under examination.

The traditional usual Sunday attendance (uSa) measure is interpreted differently across the dioceses and is therefore not regarded as statistically accurate as a comparison.