Decade of growth for England's cathedrals
Church of England cathedrals have experienced steady growth in attendance in the decade since the Millennium.
According to new statistics from the Church, total weekly numbers rose across the 42 cathedrals to 35,800 in 2012, an increase of 35% since 2002.
The rise has been put down to cathedrals strengthening their community links with a combination of regular and special services, and events.
Easter 2012 saw the highest attendance in the last decade, at 54,700. Attendance at midweek services has grown most, from 8,900 in 2002 to 16,800, while Sunday attendance has grown from 17,500 to 19,100.
The numbers of children and young people attending educational events is the highest for 10 years, rising from 265,100 in 2002 to 306,800.
The number of volunteers serving cathedrals continued to rise, reaching 15,570, an increase of 30% on the 11,930 in 2002. Between them, they fulfil a range of 860 voluntary roles across the country.
Other regular services, run at least once a month, attracted a further 1,639,300 worshippers.
Around one million attended more than 5000 public and civil events in the cathedrals, down from a peak in 2010 but still nearly twice as many as in 2002.
There were 2,900 specially arranged services, such as annual festivals and school leavers' services attracted a further 930,000.
Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops' Council said: "Cathedrals continue to flourish as worshipping communities while offering a valuable insight into our nation's heritage. The statistics show people of all ages are increasingly drawn to cathedrals for worship, to attend educational and civic events, and to volunteer to ensure our cathedrals are open to all those who are drawn to visit and worship in these wonderful buildings."
Liverpool is UK's largest Cathedral and is filled to capacity a number of times a year. Alongside the 400,000 tourists and visitors that come every year, nearly 100,000 attended at least one service in 2012 with Christmas being the busiest time. Carol services are held almost every evening December building up to nearly 2,500 people attending midnight and Christmas morning celebrations. The cathedral has also seen increasing numbers for the Blessing of the crib/lighting the tree and Holly Bough services.
Easter is another busy time and this year saw between 250 and 200 people attend the first ever Cathedral Passion Play performed in Holy Week. A production conceived and produced by cathedral staff and volunteers became a popular and powerful local drama.
The Cathedral also pioneers new ways to reach different communities. The Zone2 café style service has grown from one in the morning to include an afternoon option. Zone2 is also being offered and developed in local parishes. The team behind it attracted more than 200 people to a special youth service – Night of the Living Dead – engaging culture with church in a creative way.
Education visits at the cathedral attracted nearly 10,000 students with a hugely popular 'Holiday Drop In' every Monday & Wednesday during the school holidays offering a range of activities including arts, crafts, and storytelling. The Pet Service takes place annually and is always well attended.
The focus in recent years has been to present the Cathedral as a community resource making the building a welcoming place for all. Last year more than 700 people attended the opening night of the Olympics which was shown on a big screen.
The Ely Cathedral Christmas Gift & Food Fair attracted 6000 people over two days and the Flower Festival 20,000 over four days. There is also a week long business exhibition in the Cathedral (A Celebration of Business) attracting thousands of people and more than 150 local businesses as exhibitors. A spokeswoman for the cathedral said: "These are not just fund raising/money making events. They help bring people into the building, often for the first time, and once they have experienced the Cathedral they may return for a Service or wish to discover more. I think lay events such as these have helped increase overall attendance at our services and other liturgical events in the Cathedral."
Truro Cathedral, in line with many other cathedrals, has seen an increase in numbers attending services, particularly at Christmas and Easter. This has been welcomed by the Dean of Truro, the Very Revd Roger Bush, who said, "It is very gratifying to see how well we are maintaining our congregations, especially in the context of overall falling church attendance figures. We are particularly pleased to see a younger profile of visitor attend a number of family events including a Cushion Concert with the Choristers, several Free Family Fun Days and of course the success of our ice skating rink during the winter." He identified this engagement with a younger profile as critical to the cathedral's aim of opening up its spaces and facilities to the wider community. He said, "We want to take a positive step out into the community we serve. We want to engage with people across the spectrum and by that engagement bring them into a closer relationship with God. We need to be more outward facing and less inward looking."
The Dean also pointed to the cathedral's ongoing 'Inspire Cornwall' project as a key instigator in shaping this new vision. He said, "Once we have completed the refurbishment of the Old Cathedral School, it will open as a community music and arts centre, inspiring and developing young people's skills and talents in the creative sector."