CATHEDRAL Advent services had a record high attendance in 2019, annual figures due to be published today reveal. A total of 665,000 people attended carol services, concerts, and nativity plays during Advent: an increase of five per cent from 2014. In all, 1.3 million people attended cathedral services and events during the year.
Midweek services continued to be popular, and figures showed a rise in attendance from 7000 in the year 2000, when midweek attendance was first reported, to a peak of 19,920 in 2015. That figure has remained basically stable.
A total of 37,300 people per week attended a usual cathedral service: a total weekly attendance that was 13 per cent larger than a decade ago. Total Easter attendance was 52,000, just over half were communicants. Attendance during Holy Week was 93,000: four per cent higher than in 2014.
The figures, which pre-date Covid-19 restrictions, reflect general trends in the Church in respect of weddings and baptisms. In terms of music, cathedrals had 1500 youth choristers and 510 lay clerks/choral scholars, a figure unchanged since 2015. There were slightly more girl choristers (770) than boys (730): a striking difference from 2009, when there were 140 more boys than girls.
The total number of visitors — defined as those paying or donating at the point of entry or in an alms box — was 9.7 million, a drop from 10.1 in 2018. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, who chairs the Association of English Cathedrals, said on Wednesday: “It’s good to see attendance at cathedrals holding steady up until the onset of Covid-19. In normal circumstances, cathedrals offer a reliable, accessible source of Christian presence and engagement with the communities in which they are set.
“We’ve had to rise to the challenge of lockdown and restrictions in a variety of ways, but the crisis has catalysed our use of, and reliance on, digital media, and opened up a whole new way of reaching a new and diverse public. When we have been able to open for worship we’ve done so safely, meeting Covid-secure guidelines. . .
“Naturally, we’re also grateful that public funds, recognising the roles we play in our communities, have enabled us to keep going during terrible financial weather, and allowed us to come up with recovery and renewal plans. We’re up for fresh challenges — we just hope the scale of them won’t be as testing as those of 2020.”