Church of England attendance increases but still below pre-pandemic levels

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The Church of England has seen an uptick in attendance for a second year running but figures still remain lower than before the pandemic.

Its latest figures, released today, showed that in 2022 regular worshippers grew by nearly 20,000 people to 984,000.

Average weekly attendance for all ages increased from 605,000 to 654,000. Among children this figure was 87,000, a 17% increase on the previous year. 

Baptisms and thanksgivings for a child rose from 55,200 in 2021 to 81,800 last year, and weddings also grew to pre-pandemic levels at 31,400 last year. 

The figures from the Statistics for Mission 2022 report showed that Christmas and Easter services continue to have strong appeal. Christmas attendance grew from 970,000 in 2021 to 1.6 million in 2022, while Easter attendance also enjoyed a boost, attracting 860,000 people, up from 520,000 the previous year.

Despite these increases, overall attendance has not returned to the same levels as before the pandemic, when the worshipping community stood at 1.1 million in 2019 and all age average weekly attendance was 854,000.

Dr Ken Eames, part of the Church of England's Data Services team and author of the Statistics for Mission 2022 report, said that Covid was still affecting last year's attendance.

"Churches did everything they could to return to normal life in 2022 following the huge disruption of 2020 and 2021 caused by the pandemic," he said.

"But 2022 was not free of its impact, indeed official figures suggest that Covid rates were higher in October 2022 than in 2021.

"Although for many people things were getting back to normal, churches were still experiencing Covid-related disruption."

Other figures contained in the 2022 report revealed that churches continue to provide vital services to their community. 

Over 500 churches opened their doors to provide a warm space for people struggling without heating during the winter months. 

Last year saw 450 more food banks and community cafes in operation across churches than before the pandemic. Some sixty per cent of all Church of England churches said they ran or supported a food bank, while over a fifth (23%) said they were involved in a community cafe offering low cost or free meals.