New attendance figures show no reverse of long-term decline
New figures released today by the Church of England show a mixed picture for trends in church attendance, with little sign that its long-term decline is ending.
Regular Sunday church attendance fell by one per cent in 2004. Weekly and monthly churchgoing held steady and the number of children and young people at services rose by two per cent.
The new statistics confirm that more than 1.7 million people attend Church of England church and cathedral worship each month while around 1.2 million attend each week - on Sunday or during the week - and just over one million each Sunday.
The Revd Lynda Barley, Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops' Council, said: 'These latest figures confirm that patterns of churchgoing are changing. Although weekly Sunday attendance has dropped - offsetting last year's increase - levels of both weekly and monthly churchgoing have remained steady, largely consolidating last year's one per cent rise. Taken over the past two years, attendance levels are holding steady overall.
'The figures also show that attendance at church services outside Sundays continues to add a significant number to local congregations. For every 50 people attending church on a typical Sunday, another 10 attend during the week.
'There are signs in several areas of the country of more sustained growth beyond special occasions. More than a third of dioceses saw an increase in their regular church attendance levels over 2003 and 2004. They are mainly clustered in the Midlands and the south east though not exclusively so. This is tremendously encouraging news for local churches as they seek to meet the increasingly evident spiritual needs of their neighbourhoods.'
Other features of the 2004 statistics released today:
Sixteen dioceses* saw annual increases in their church attendance figures for 2004. The accompanying tables provide detailed diocesan information for 2003 and 2004 together with national comparisons for 2001 to 2004.
Attendance at festival services such as Easter and Christmas 2004 remained at 1.5 million and 2.6 million respectively.
Despite Christmas falling on different days each year and Easter being a ëmoveable feast', church attendance levels on these occasions have remained constant over recent years and considerably higher than attendance at weekly church services.
In 2004, the parish electoral rolls stood at 1.3 million continuing the small annual increase of two per cent as people are steadily added to the roll by parishes until the major revision every six years. The size of the parish electoral rolls although similar overall to adult church attendance over a typical month, masks very different practices across the Church of England parishes and dioceses.
The number of baptisms in 2004 remained at a similar level to 2003 while the pattern of decline in confirmation numbers continued. The number of funerals decreased while the number of marriages increased slightly.