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More weddings, but fewer worshippers on average

18 January 2012

by Ed Thornton

AVERAGE attendance at Church of England Sunday services continued to fall in 2010, but there was a significant increase in marriages, provisional figures released by Church House this week suggest.

Average attendance at Sunday services dropped to 923,700 during 2010, having stood at 944,000 in 2009, and 960,000 in 2008. Average attendance each week (taking into account services not on a Sunday) dropped slightly to 1.116 million from 1.131 million in 2009, and 1.145 million in 2008. Average monthly attendance also dropped marginally in 2010 to 1.645 million, from 1.65 million in 2009.

Marriages rose by four per cent in 2010 to 54,700, compared with 52,730 in 2009. Church House said in a statement that this was “the biggest increase in any one year over the last ten years”.

The research measured average Sunday and weekly attendance by identifying the average number of people attending services, typically over a four-week period in October. The earlier measure of “usual Sunday attendance” (uSa) was not used because the researchers did not regard it as statistically accurate.

The average Sunday, weekly, and monthly attendance figures took into account Fresh Expressions services, but not chapel services in hospitals, educational and other institu­tions, nor international congregations.

Child baptisms (defined as those of candid­ates aged from one to 12) increased by one per cent during 2010, to 43,850, compared with 43,480 in 2009; adult baptisms (of those aged 13 and over) also increased by one per cent in 2010 — to 11,160, compared with 11,010 in 2009. Infant baptisms, however, dropped by one per cent in 2010 to 83,260, compared with 83,820 in 2009.

Funerals in churches and in crematoria were down by two per cent and four per cent respectively.

The first statistical analysis of the Fresh Expressions movement suggests that there are “at least 1000 C of E fresh expressions of church or new congregations”, a Church House statement said. About 30,000 people who do not attend traditional services go to fresh expressions each month, it says. This equates to about 40 people in each parish that participates in fresh expressions. More than half of the fresh-expressions initiatives are aimed at families with young children.

The Archbishops’ Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team, the Rt Revd Graham Cray, said: “It’s inspiring to think how much has happened in so short a time. . . We are all running to keep up. This is hugely encouraging and is a major contribution to the re-evangelisation of our land.

“However, it is just a beginning, this is not a quick fix and there is much more to do. Fresh expressions of church are one vital factor, but there is a long haul ahead of us.”

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