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Attendances prove Christmas surprise

28 December 2011

by a staff reporter

CATHEDRALS and churches up and down the country have reported a large rise in attendances this Christ­mas. Thousands of worshippers crammed into some of the most popular services.

In Exeter Cathedral, people queued across the cathedral green for its Christmas Eve carol service, and several hundred had to be turned away, said the Acting Dean, Canon Carl Turner. Evensong on Christmas Day was also full.

He said that the improved weather, after last year’s cold and snow, had helped.

At Wakefield Cathedral, the Dean, the Very Revd Jonathan Greener, said that more people than ever had been at its Christmas services. “For us it started back in Advent, and we have been busy throughout.

“Our Christingle was jam-packed, with people sitting wherever they could, and both our Christmas morning services were full. We have had more than we ever had, and it was very encouraging, particularly as West and South Yorkshire has had the lowest number of churchgoers in Western Europe.”

At St Albans Cathedral, the ex­pected 1000 for a crib service on Christ­mas Eve attracted 3000; and, an hour after it finished, 700 turned up for evensong.

St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, also reported an unex­pectedly high turnout for midnight mass, and extra chairs had to be brought out.

Speaking after the service, the Provost, the Very Revd Kelvin Holds­worth, said: “It was wonderful to see the church packed to the gunwales for the most holy night of the year. The singing was so strong and so powerful that it felt that we were going to raise the roof.

“In a time of economic uncertain­ty, when so many places of the world seem troubled, it is clear that people want to share in the hope that the Church proclaims at Christmas.”

At York Minster, all services were packed, Canon Jonathan Draper said. Well over 3500 attended the Christ­mas Eve carol service.

At St Paul’s Cathedral in London, where the Occupy camp is still in place, numbers were also up. The Canon Pastor, the Rt Revd Michael Colclough, said: “We did wonder if the situation outside would affect numbers this year, but it hasn’t.

We were packed, and our numbers were up on last year, when we suffered a little with the colder weather.”

On Tuesday, a service of carols and readings had been disturbed by a fire alarm. “We continued the ser­vice, with 800 people in attendance, on the steps. I think everyone quite enjoyed it.”

Several factors might explain the reported growth, among them the milder weather and the fact that Christmas fell on a Sunday. Eco­nomic anxiety was also suggested.

A selection of parish churches are also reporting increased attendances. At St Mary’s, Slough, about 100 attended midnight mass, about half of whom were not regular church­goers, said Heather Allen.

“It was a very good Christmas for us. All our services were well at­tended. It was amazing how many people at midnight mass were there, represent­ing countries all around the world.”

Numbers in All Saints’, Maidstone, were also very good, the Revd Chris Morgan-Jones said. The Rector of Dorchester Abbey, Canon Sue Booys, also reported that numbers had been higher than usual at carol services.

In the small parish church of Uplyme, in Devon, whose beat­boxing Vicar, the Revd Gavin Tyte, has won global recognition for his “nativity rap”, there were more than 200 people at carol services. Mr Tyte used the rap in his Christmas Day sermon — without the accompany­ing sound effects. It has been seen by nearly 200,000 people on YouTube.

Question of the week: Were your Christmas services better attended than in recent years?

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