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Cathedral growth is aided by strong community links

16 August 2013


Alpacas in the aisle: an animal-blessing service in Ely Cathedral, in May 2012

Alpacas in the aisle: an animal-blessing service in Ely Cathedral, in May 2012

STRONG community links have contributed to a 35-per-cent increase in attendance at cathedrals since 2002, Church House suggests, as it releases figures this week.

Cathedral Statistics 2012, published on Monday, says that last year, 28,800 over-16s and 7000 under-16s attended Sunday and midweek services at cathedrals, up from 20,700 and 5800 in 2002.

There was also increased attendance at Easter and Christmas. Attendance at Easter was 54,700, the highest since 2002. Attendance on Christmas Day fell by ten per cent from 129,100 in 2011, when Christmas Day fell on Sunday, to 117,200 in 2012, when it was on Tuesday (the figure was 106,500 in 2002).  ommunicants at Easter and Christmas numbered 32,200 and 27,500 respectively, representing 27 per cent and 50 per cent of total attendance at all services.

Cathedral Statistics 2012 also reports a rise in the number of volunteers serving in cathedrals. In 2012, there were 15,570 volunteers, representing an increase of 30 per cent since 2002, when there were 11,930.

In 2012, cathedral clergy conducted 760 baptisms; 360 marriages and blessings of marriages; 400 funerals; and 100 memorial services.

Last year, 306,800 children attended educational events at cathedrals, up from 286,400 in 2011.

The head of research and statistics at the Archbishops' Council, Dr Bev Botting, said: "The statistics show people of all ages are increasingly drawn to cathedrals for worship, to attend educational and civic events, and to volunteer to ensure our cathedrals are open to all those who are drawn to visit and worship."

One of the reasons for the rising attendances over the past decade has been the stronger links forged by cathedrals with their local communities, Church House says. Liverpool Cathedral, where nearly 100,000 people attended at least one service last year, has pioneered new ways to reach the community, including a "Zone2 café-style service", which takes place on Sunday mornings and afternoons.

Ely Cathedral has in recent years functioned as a "community resource": it has operated a "drop-in" during school holidays, and last year displayed the opening ceremony of the Olympics on a big screen, attracting more than 700 people.

The Dean of Truro, the Very Revd Roger Bush, said: "It is very gratifying to see how well we are maintaining our congregations, especially in the context of overall falling church-attendance figures. We are particularly pleased to see a younger profile of visitor attend a number of family events. . .

"We want to take a positive step out into the community we serve. We want to engage with people across the spectrum, and by that engagement, bring them into a closer relationship with God. We need to be more outward-facing and less inward-looking."

A report published last year by the Grubb Institute, a consultancy, and Theos, a theology think tank,Spiritual Capital: The present and future of English cathedrals, suggested that cathedrals gave non-religious people a "powerful sense of the sacred", which they did not experience elsewhere ( News, 19 October).

Cathedral Statistics 2012 can be downloaded here.

Leader comment

Question of the Week: Are cathedrals good models for parish churches?

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