ARE they "recovery wards" for those burnt by the Church? Do they
offer the possibility to "slide in from the sides"? And are
Sundays, in any case, taken up with shopping and DIY?
Cathedral deans in the Church of England have attributed the
rise in attendance at cathedrals to a variety of factors.
Statistics published by Church House on Monday indicate that
attendance at services on Monday to Saturday at cathedrals doubled
between 2003 and 2013, from 7500 to 15,000.
Attendance on Sunday remained fairly static, increasing from
15,600 to 15,900. The annual number of visitors has increased from
9.4 million in 2010 to 10.2 million in 2013, down on the 2003
figure of 10.8 million.
Other services were logged separately. Total attendance on
Christmas Day was 124,300 in 2013, six per cent higher than in
2012, an average of 2960 people per cathedral. Easter attendance in
2013 was 53,300, down on 2012.
Music in cathedrals in 2013 was produced by 150 home choirs and
supported by 850 visiting choirs, the first time this has been
quantified. There is an average of 350 volunteers for each
In a podcast recorded by Church House, the Dean of York, the
Very Revd Vivienne Faull, said that cathedrals offered "the
opportunity of allowing people to come in from the edges. If I take
a eucharist at 12.30 in the middle of the week in the nave of York
Minster, there will be a lot of people who just slide in from the
"It's much more difficult to slide in in a parish church,
because everyone in the village is watching. It's not so much about
anonymity: it's about feeling there's a journey that you can travel
on which doesn't require huge steps. It just requires one little
step, and I think that's very important."
The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, attributed
the popularity of midweek services to the fact that they were
"reasonably short. People can often squeeze them into very, very
pressurised lifestyles, whereas, at the weekend you've got
commitments, with children doing sport, with shopping, and
household maintenance. Life's run at the double these days, and
weekends are very pressurised and committed.
"Taking out half an hour or an hour during the week is much more
negotiable, it comes out of much more discretionary time."
On Tuesday, the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn,
responded to national headlines suggesting that the Church had
admitted that Sundays were "inconvenient". He said: "I would be
most reluctant to accept that. I think you have to challenge
whether going to a DIY store is actually a priority for their
lives, or worship. . . People need to be drawn into the priority of
God. If we begin to suggest that Sunday is the same as any other
day, I think we are doing a disservice to the God of Easter."
At Southwark, Dean Nunn reported, there had been "huge growth"
in the Sunday congregation rather than in mid-week attendance. He
attributed this to a focus on welcome, the quality of the liturgy,
and an emphasis on inclusivity.
He agreed with Dean Faull's comments about "slipping in". "If
you go into a church and there are 20 people there, your presence
is felt and recognised instantly, and there is a kind of hungry
look that can be in the eyes of smaller congregations, particularly
if you are a younger person. People are thinking about all the jobs
they can do.
"Often people are putting a toe into the water of church, and
don't necessarily want to be dragged under. [Cathedrals] give the
possibility of entering on your own terms, which, for better or
worse, is where spirituality is."
Responding to concerns that the success of cathedrals could
result in a drain on parishes, he argued that a cathedral could be
"a bit of a recovery ward for people who have had a bad church
experience". He gave the example of those who had been "too heavily
involved and have almost had burnout.
"I love it when people have gained a bit of confidence again and
can then say 'Actually I am going to go to a parish church,'" he
said. "That is bit of success story for us."
'Cathedral conundrum' - Leader