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London rise in churchgoing attributed to Pentecostalists

02 August 2013

CHURCHGOING in London is on the increase, research suggests, owing mainly to a rapid expansion of churches based on ethnic groups, and a rise in worshippers at the capital's larger churches.

The London Church Census, commissioned by London City Mission, and carried out by Brierley Consultancy last October, found that attendances had risen by 16 per cent since 2005, and that 720,000 people now went to church on a Sunday. Women accounted for much of the increase: on average, for every new male worshipper, there were five new women.

The growth is largely attributed to ethnic diversity. Two new churches opened in London every week between 2005 and 2012; two-thirds of these were Pentecostal black-majority churches. One third catered for a particular language or ethnic group. In the inner-city boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, where Pentecostalists are concentrated, attendance increased by more than 50 per cent ( News, 28 June).

The number of Pentecostal churchgoers across London (32 per cent) has overtaken Roman Catholics (27 per cent) for the first time; and there are now 1450 Pentecostal churches.

The survey also found that more than half (54 per cent) of all worshippers attended churches with congregations exceeding 200 on a Sunday. The 140 largest, each attended by more than 800 people, encompassed 12 per cent of all the city's churchgoers.

The make-up of those churches has changed. In 1989, many were Roman Catholic, but by last year only two-thirds were. They now include black Pentecostal churches, and Anglican churches such as Holy Trinity, Brompton; All Souls', Langham Place; and St Helen's, Bishopsgate.

Larger churches also attract younger worshippers. About six per cent of people in their 20s go to church in London - twice the number in the rest of England - and two-thirds attend larger churches. In general, the larger the church, the smaller the proportion of worshippers aged 45 or over.

The mission director of the inter-denominational group Crossing London, Andy Frost, said: "We are very encouraged to see from this census that many hundreds of thousands of people still consider 'churchgoing' as an important part of their lives.

"While some models of 'church' and congregations might be changing as our culture changes, it remains vital for Christians to worship together, to share experiences, and to support each other in their faith."

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