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07 May 2013

Church of England attendance figures stabilise

Church of England attendance figures stabilise

Attendance figures from the Church of England, released today, show higher attendance at Christmas, an increase in baptisms and a growing stability in weekly numbers at services.

The Church of England annual statistics for 2011 signify a stabilisation which is seen as an encouraging change to the usual declining rates.

Average weekly attendances overall fell by 0.3 per cent, to about 1.1 million in 2011, representing a "stabilising" of attendance figures. The figures also suggested a continuing large presence of "nominal" Anglicans - those who believe in God but only go to church occasionally.

Twenty out of the Church of England's 44 regional areas saw growth in church attendance, and nationally the number of children and young people attending rose by 1.2 per cent to 216,928.

The number of worshippers attending Christmas services in 2011 was 14.5 per cent higher than the previous year, reaching a total of 2,618,030.

Welcoming the publication of the statistics, the Rt Rev Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich, said: "These figures are a welcome reminder of the work and service undertaken by the Church of England annually - 1,000 couples married, 2,600 baptisms celebrated and over 3,000 funerals conducted every week of the year.

"The attendance figures are heartening, especially the very strong growth in Christmas Day attendance.

"The encouraging news of further growth to come even on these high figures is very welcome and points to a growing trend. Also welcome is the stabilising of the numbers of those who attend church services on a weekly basis.”

"With almost half of our dioceses showing growth, there is a quiet confidence underlying these figures."

The number of christenings also increased by 4.3 per cent and was accompanied by a rise of just over five per cent in adult baptisms with a combined total of 139,751 baptisms, equivalent to an average of over 2,600 baptisms conducted by the Church of England each week during 2011. Thanksgivings for the birth of a child also rose by 11.9 per cent to 6,582.

While church weddings fell by 3.6 per cent in 2011, to 51,880, the number of wedding blessings - services of prayer and thanksgiving following a civil ceremony - was up by 4.5 per cent. The wedding figures confirm the trend of the past decade where the Church of England married an average of 1,000 couples every week.

There were also fewer church funerals, with Church of England clergy and lay ministers conducting 162,526 in 2011, a fall of 2.8 per cent on the previous year. These reflect figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed a fall of 1.8 per cent in deaths in England and Wales in 2011. On these figures the Church of England conducted an average of over 3,000 funerals every week in 2011 - over 400 every day.

Bishop James concluded that the report “reflects the wide nature of the ministry offered by the Church - for all of life from the cradle to the grave."