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Bishop Curry-style sermons would draw fewer than one-fifth of people to church, poll suggests

22 June 2018


The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at a trophy presentation at Royal Ascot, on Tuesday

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at a trophy presentation at Royal Ascot, on Tuesday

IF ALL preached like the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry, at the Royal wedding (News, 25 May), 16 per cent of those polled would be more likely to go to church.

The same poll, for the Christian think tank Theos, suggested, however, that 38 per cent would not be more likely to attend.

The online survey was conducted by ComRes at the end of last month. Among the statements put to the sample of 2007 people was: “I would be more likely to go to church if I thought that the preaching would be similar to Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon.”

In reply, six per cent strongly agreed, and 11 per cent “tended to agree”. At the same time, 27 per cent strongly disagreed, and 11 per cent tended to disagree.

Few conclusions can be drawn from the results, however. Among those who said that they already attended church once a week — about eight per cent of the total sample — 29 per cent said that they would be more likely to attend on account of such preaching; 25 per cent said that they would not, presumably because they were already attending church as often as they wished.

It is possible that all those in the general survey who indicated that they would be more likely to go to church were made up of those who already attend regularly or occasionally.

The biggest response was from those who indicated indifference to the sermon, by ticking either “Neither agree nor disagree” or “Don’t know” : 45 per cent of the whole sample.

These two categories also scored highest on the other questions: whether Bishop Curry’s sermon increased understanding of beliefs, appropriately mixed religion and politics, had the right tone and content, expressed ideas that could be easily agreed with, and was correct in addressing both social and political issues.

In a commentary on the poll, a Theos researcher, Charlotte Hobson, noted that the sermon was “relatively ineffective in promoting any initial connection with religious establishments”.

“This is unsurprising,” she went on. “It would be naïve to think that an (albeit unexpectedly energetic and entertaining) one-off sermon like Bishop Curry’s could radically alter the entrenched habits of non-believing British viewers.”

None the less, she also notes that “younger age brackets tended to perceive the sermon more positively than older generations”.


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