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Provisional attendance figures for 2009 released: attending a local CofE church continues to be part of a typical week for 1.1 million people

The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England show that approaching 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.

Total attendance

The total number of adults, children and young people attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the seven years since 2002, with the 2009 figures showing a drop of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in 2008. The total number of under 16s was virtually unchanged compared to 2008 and remained more than two percent higher than 2002.  

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 2009. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under 16s in church holding steady and growth in church attendance in 16 out of 44 dioceses, there are continued challenges, with further small declines in traditional attendance measures. Churches continue to be central to community life and are responding positively to changes in modern day lifestyles with a growing range of opportunities to participate in church life.  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 remains important to see these trends in the context of wider changes in a society where fewer people join and take part in membership organizations. 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 a Sunday. Nevertheless, the figures are a further reminder of the importance, highlighted in the report - Challenges for the Quinquennium - which Synod will be debating next week, of achieving sustained numerical and spiritual growth over the coming years."

In summary: Average weekly attendance was down slightly at 1,131,000 (2008: 1,145,000; 2007: 1,160,000), as was average monthly attendance at 1,651,000 (2008: 1,667,000; 2007: 1,690,000). while average Sunday attendance dropped two per cent to 944,000 (2008: 960,000; 2007: 978,000) The average number of children and young people at services each week was slightly down at 223,000 (2008: 225,000; 2007: 219,000). The number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis was virtually unchanged at  436,000 (2008: 438,000; 2007: 424,000), while other research reveals that a further 375,000 attend other church based activities.

Marking life events

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

The number of marriages taking place in parish churches was down one per cent at  52,700. Blessings of marriages following a civil ceremony fell (by nine per cent, to 3,900). The total number of weddings in the UK in 2009 has not yet been published, although numbers have been falling gradually in recent years.

The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England also dropped (by six per cent, to 176,700), particularly those taking place in crematoria (by nine per cent, to 85,600); this is against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of deaths fell by 3.5 per cent between 2008 and 2009).

Nine in ten Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts.  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.

Celebrating festivals

Widespread snow and ice badly effected Christmas Day attendances in 2009, with some churches forced to cancel services. Attendances and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday were little changed from 2008.

In summary: Attendance at Church of England local church services on Christmas Eve/Day 2009 was down nine per cent at 2,420,600 (2008: 2,647,200; 2007: 2,656,800). These figures do not include the large number attending at other services related to Christmas, for example, Christingle and carol services during Advent. Easter observance was little changed at 1,411,200 (2008: 1,415,800; 2007: 1,469,000).

The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish churches rose one per cent from 1,179,000 to 1,197,000. The historic 'usual Sunday attendance' measure (see note below for definition) fell two per cent to 826,000 (2008: 845,000; 2007: 868,000). 

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 (http://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 fell 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.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 72 per cent affiliate themselves with Christianity and of those who affiliate with Christianity, 32 per cent are practising. The data comes from the Citizenship Survey 2008/9 and Social Trends

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.