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Fewer online Christmas services planned, as in-person worship returns, survey finds

13 December 2022


MORE in-person worship and events and fewer online services are being planned by churches this Christmas compared to last, a new survey commissioned by Ecclesiastical Insurance suggests.

The survey, published this week, was carried out by the Bible Society between 31 October and 14 November this year; 583 churches were represented.

Participants were first asked which Christmas services and events had been held at the church the previous year (2021), for example, Mass, the Christmas Day service, Midnight Mass, Advent evensong, and carol and nativity services.

National Covid restrictions had ended by December 2021, but some nervousness surrounding gatherings remained. The survey suggests that last year most churches had been able to hold a Christmas Day service (460) and carol services (455). About half had held a Christmas Eve service (325) and 40 per cent had held midnight communion (235); and nativity services (214).

Generally, these figures were slightly lower compared to the services being planned for this year: Christmas Day service (479); carol services (470); Christmas Eve service (330); midnight communion (237) and nativity services (249).

The exception was online services, which decreased by 17 per cent from 173 in 2021 to 142 planned for this year.

Participants were also asked what they were most looking forward to this Christmas (more than one answer could be selected). Most (396) agreed on prayer and worship and the chance to bring the community together (388). Two thirds (365) looked forward to Christmas without Covid restrictions, and one quarter to the return to pre-pandemic numbers of both attendees and events (175 and 171 respectively).

Ecclesiastical has produced guidance to help churches to prepare for extra numbers this year, including preventing slips and trips, decorating the church safely, and potential fire risks. Its church operations director, Helen Richards, said: “It’s no surprise that churches are throwing open their doors now pandemic restrictions have been lifted and are looking forward to welcoming visitors back.

“With extra numbers attending events, including people who potentially who don’t attend church regularly, there are some extra steps we’d encourage churches to take some extra precautionary steps to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable Christmas.”


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