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C of E attendance statistics slope still points downward

14 November 2014


Some good news: the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, baptises a girl at the dawn service of Initiation and Communion, at Durham Cathedral, on Easter Day, in April 

Some good news: the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, baptises a girl at the dawn service of Initiation and Communion, at Durham Cath...

ATTENDANCE at C of E churches continues to decline slightly, the latest statistics have revealed. In 2013, the average weekly attendance across England was 1,009,000, two per cent of the population. In 2012, this figure was 1.05 million.

The latest figures come from Statistics for Mission 2013, which was released on Monday. The report suggests that, on an average Sunday in October last year (when the figures were collated), a total of 849,500 people attended a C of E service.

In another measure, the Usual Sunday Attendance, 784,600 people attended. Forty years ago, the Usual Sunday Attendance figure was approximately 1.25 million, but population increases mean that the percentage of English residents who attend church has halved, from three to 1.5 per cent over this period.

In recent years, Sunday attendance has continued to fall by a small amount each year. Five years ago, the C of E saw 823,000 people come through its doors on a Sunday.

Speaking about the publication of the statistics, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, said: "The Church of England continues to serve the nation with a core of 1 million activist members who worship faithfully each week."

Nevertheless, more churches (24 per cent) were losing congregation members last year than were gaining them (19 per cent). The majority (58 per cent) had stable attendance records.

On a normal Sunday, the average urban church welcomed 60 people, while the average rural church welcomed just 19.

Statistics for Mission 2013 was not all bad news, however: 31,000 people joined the Church's "worshipping community" for the first time in 2013; and C of E clergy baptised 132,940 candidates, of whom some 79,000 were infants. This means that, for every 1000 children born in England, approximately 120 are baptised by a C of E minister.

In addition, 19,000 candidates were confirmed. Over the past decade, infant baptisms have decreased by 17 per cent; baptisms of children has gone up 15 per cent, and adult baptism has increased by 32 per cent.

Last year, 49,690 marriages were conducted, amounting to one in five of all the marriages in England and Wales. According to Statistics for Mission, most churches conduct between one and five marriages a year.

There were 159,490 Church of England funerals or memorial services held in a cemetery or crematorium in 2013, representing a third of all deaths. In an average week in the C of E, 2557 people are baptised, 956 weddings are held, and 3067 funerals are conducted.

Bishop Croft said: "In addition to the regular worshipping core, the Church continues to serve all those who look to us to mark the most important events of their life journey through weddings, baptisms, and funerals.

"Through these services alone, we estimate that a further half a million people attend church every week of the year, many of whom will be only fringe or occasional visitors."

Christmas services continue to be the best-attended. In 2013, Christmas services in parish churches attracted nearly 2.4 million people. This figure has remained reasonably stable over the past five years.

Just under 1.3 million attended an Easter service in 2013, down from 1.4 million in 2012. This number has been declining steadily over the past decade.


Average attendances growing -  Ely, Guildford, Leicester, London, Manchester, Newcastle

Average attendances stable - Coventry, Ripon and Leeds, 

Average attendances falling - Bath and Wells, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bradford, Bristol, Canterbury, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Chichester, Derby, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, Liverpool, Norwich, Oxford, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Rochester, St Albans, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Salisbury, Sheffield, Sodor and Man, Southwark, Southwell and Nottingham, Truro, Wakefield, Winchester, Worcester, York, Europe

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