Clergy numbers up, but laity down

22 October 2008

by Bill Bowder

Called: the Bishops of Ramsbury (left) and Sherborne (centre) with a new deacon in Salisbury Cathedral, last month SALISBURY CATHEDRAL

Called: the Bishops of Ramsbury (left) and Sherborne (centre) with a new deacon in Salisbury Cathedral, last month SALISBURY CATHEDRAL

MORE CLERGY are being trained and ordained in the Church of England than for a decade, but the numbers worshipping have con­tinued to drop, says the Church Statistics report for the year 2006-07, which was issued this week.

There were also more younger clergy (under 40) being accepted for training. Over three years, their numbers rose from 188 in 2004 to 243 last year. The Church recom­mended 595 candidates for training during the year — the greatest number in a decade. In 1994, only 408 candidates were recommended for training.

To support these and other in­creasing costs, the average parish­ioner gave £5.38 a week to the Church in 2006 (the figure based on the numbers on parish electoral rolls). But parish expenditure grew faster than giving.

In the nine years between 1998 and 2006, recurring expenditure in­creased by 49 per cent, but recurring income increased by 45 per cent. Over the same period, the amount the Church spent on capital costs increased by 70 per cent, while its “one-off income” (for instance, from appeals to meet those costs) increased by 66 per cent.

In 2006, PCCs had a total income of £826 million, and expenditure of £792 million — £46 million of which went to other charities and missions.

The report gives a total of 20,355 licensed ministers — clergy, Church Army officers, and Readers — and, in addition, 1568 chaplains, as well as about 7000 retired ministers with permission to officiate.

On the lowest-attended Sunday in October 2006 — the month on which the report’s churchgoing statistics are based —622,000 adults were in church, com­pared with 660,000 in church on the lowest-attended Sunday of the four recorded in October 2005.

When Sunday-school children and all those under 16 were included, the total reached 722,000. In 2000, there were 781,000 in church on the lowest-attended Sunday in October.

The largest number of adults attending a Sunday service in Octo­ber 2006 was also lower: down from 1,191,000 on the best Sunday in October 2000 to 1,123,000 on the best Sunday in October 2006.

But, the report says, the C of E is “a seven days a week Church”; so, when those going to church throughout the week were included, the top figure climbed to 1,694,000 in a place of worship on the best week, and the bottom figure dropped to 812,000 on the worst week.

Christmas and Easter figures also rose from the previous year — by seven per cent and five per cent respectively. But, if the comparison is made going back more than 80 years to Easter 1922, for which the report also provides figures, the numbers taking communion at a parish church on Easter Day stood at 8.8 per cent of the population; by 2006, 2.6 per cent of the population were communi­cants at Easter — just over one million people, from an attendance of 1.48 million.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the attendance figure rose to nearly three million, of whom 1.25 million (or three per cent of the popu­lation of 41.3 million in Eng­land) were communicants.

The numbers on the parish electoral rolls reflected the changed circumstances: in 2006, there were nearly 1.27 million on parochial rolls in England, down from nearly 1.4 million in 1990. Confirmation figures also fell: from 29,833 in 2005 to 29,380 in 2006. Infant baptisms fell from 93,000 to 90,880 over the year.

The statistics appear on the C of E website, but are not published in any other form.

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