THE number of people who attended services at cathedrals last Christmas was the highest since records began in 2000, the latest statistics have shown.
In 2016, a total of 130,900 people attended one of the Church of England’s 42 cathedrals on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This was five per cent more than in 2015, and the highest figure recorded since the Church first began collating them in 2000.
Attendance at cathedrals during Advent was also up on previous years, at 635,000. This number has been calculated only since 2014, however.
There was also an increase in attendance at regular services, such as Fresh Expressions or school services, which happen at least once a month: 574,000 people attended in 2016 — up 22 per cent from the 472,000 who came through cathedrals’ doors for similar services in 2015.
Elsewhere, the numbers were relatively stable. Some 37,000 people — of whom 82 per cent were adults over 16 — attended Sunday or midweek services at cathedrals, which is the same as in 2015, but an increase of 17 per cent from a decade earlier in 2006.
Almost all of the increase over the decade can be attributed to a rise in the attendance of adults at midweek services: up by 56 per cent.
Total attendance at Easter services was two per cent down on 2015, at 53,000, but two per cent up on the figure for 2006. The number of those attending Easter services who took communion continued to fall, to 26,000 in 2016: the lowest it has been since 2003, and a drop of 12 per cent in the past ten years.
Only 34,000 of those who attended Christmas services — about a quarter of those who came through the doors — received communion in 2016, a figure that has fallen by 17 per cent since 2006.
Public and civic events at cathedrals had an increase in attendance of 11 per cent from 2015 to 2016. In total, 1.2 million people came to 5900 such events. Over the past decade, the number of public and civic events has risen by 59 per cent, but the total attendance has decreased by nine per cent.
Nine million people visited cathedrals in 2016, and a further 1.1 million visited Westminster Abbey, which is a royal peculiar. That was five per cent less than the 9.5 million who visited in 2015, but an increase on the 8.5 million who visited ten years earlier.
Just under half (47 per cent) the visitors paid to enter a cathedral. Only nine cathedrals, plus Westminster Abbey, charge for entry.
Baptisms were essentially unchanged from the previous year, at 770. This masks the fact, however, that, over the past decade, the number of infant baptisms has fallen by 33 per cent, while the number of those being baptised at age 13 and above has doubled.
There were 290 marriage services in 2016, a similar figure compared with 2015, but a fall of 22 per cent since 2006. There were also 350 funerals and 140 memorial services in cathedrals last year.
The number of children and young people who attended educational events in cathedrals has increased by ten per cent to 310,000 since 2016, but was slightly less than the figure for 2015.
Some 15,000 people volunteered at a cathedral in 2016, and there were 2000 choristers.