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Provisional attendance figures for 2010 released – marriages up four per cent, national ‘mapping’ identifies at least 1,000 fresh expressions of church

The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England for 2010 show that approaching 1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services each month, and around 1.1 million attend one of the Church of England's 16,000 churches as part of a typical week.

The figures additionally highlight for the first time the results of innovative Church initiatives, such as the ecumenical Fresh Expressions movement and the Archbishops' Council's Weddings Project.

Following extensive work by the Weddings Project and the introduction of the 2008 Marriage Measure, marriages in the Church of England increased by four per cent in 2010.

Across all dioceses the statistics reveal at least 1,000 fresh expressions and new forms of church, linked to the Church of England, reaching into communities. There are an estimated 1,000 fresh expressions within the Methodist Church.

The full statistics are available online, in the Resources sidebar.

Total attendance

Average Sunday attendance dropped two per cent to 923,700 (2009: 944,400). Average weekly attendance at 1,116,100 (2009: 1,130,600) was down by somewhat less, indicating a continuing shift in patterns of church attendance. Average monthly attendance was 1,645,500 (2009: 1,650,600). The average number of children and young people at services each week was down two per cent at 218,600 (2009: 223,000); while the number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis was fractionally up at 437,700 (2009: 436,200).

Marking life events

Marriages in the Church of England increased by four per cent in 2010 to 54,700 compared to 52,730 in 2009, the biggest increase in any one year over the last 10 years; services of prayer and dedication also rose by two per cent to 4,020, up from 3,940.

Child baptisms increased one per cent to 43,850 in 2010, up from 43,480 in 2009; adult baptisms rose one per cent to 11,160 in 2010, up from 11,010; while infant baptisms decreased by one per cent to 83,260, down from 83,820 in 2009.

Funerals in church and crematorium were down two per cent and four per cent respectively.

Fresh Expressions

The first ever statistical analysis of the Fresh Expressions movement has concluded that there are at least 1,000 CofE fresh expressions of church or new congregations across the country. These aim to provide new forms of church which are different in ethos and style from the church which planted them because they are designed to reach a different group of people than those already attending the original church. The emphasis is on planting something which is appropriate to its context rather than cloning something which works elsewhere.

Around 30,000 people attend fresh expressions each month who don't attend traditional regular services, equating to an average of around 40 people per participating parish exploring new forms of church - the statistical equivalent of an additional diocese. These 30,000 are included in the average weekly and monthly statistics. Almost all dioceses have reported fresh expressions or new congregations with over half of these initiatives aimed at families with young children. More information on fresh expressions of church is available on the Church of England website as a Powerpoint presentation.

Celebrating festivals

As a result of poor weather conditions and many cancelled services, all-age attendance at Christmas Eve/Day services in 2010 dropped by five per cent to 2,298,400; all-age attendance on Easter Day dropped by one per cent to 1,394,700.

Nine in 10 Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts, which have been verified across all 16,000 Church of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops' Council.

Tables including the above figures and a breakdown by diocese, along with the Powerpoint on Fresh Expressions, are available online.


Fresh Expressions is an ecumenical movement to nurture contemporary forms of church life alongside traditional ones. Fresh expressions of church are being formed in a variety of ways, with new communities reaching people such as clubbers, artists and students.

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.

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