British church attendance turns a corner

For years now, the words ‘church attendance’ have rarely been read apart from the rather gloomy utterance of ‘in decline’.

But it seems there may be more to smile about than any of us realised as the latest figures out from Christian Research show that attendance in the Catholic Church and Church of England have stabilised, while the Baptist Union has seen sizable growth.

The statistical evidence coming from Christian Research in recent years has all pointed to long-term decline, with the weekly attendance at Roman Catholic Mass in England and Wales falling from just over 1.1 million in 1995 to around 950,000 in 2002.

The last five years have seen a halt in the decline, however, with average weekly attendance in Catholic churches remaining steady at around 900,000 since 2004, welcome news just days before the Pope's visit to Britain.

The same trend can be seen in the Church of England, where average weekly attendance has hovered at around 1.2 million year on year since 2001.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain has done particularly well in recent years, climbing from 130,000 a week in 2004 to just under 155,000 a week in 2008.

Director of Christian Research, Benita Hewitt, told Premier Radio that the growth was most likely down to the change taking place in church.

She said: “The church is changing and adapting, offering Messy Church on a Saturday afternoon or various activities and worship services midweek.”