Mixed picture for CofE in latest attendance figures

Numbers attending Church of England weekly services have continued to decline, according to its latest annual Statistics for Mission report issued today.

Traditional Sunday attendance edged lower in 2017, in line with long-term trends, and – measured in October 2017 – stood at 756,000.

CofE Christmas attendance is rising, according to its latest statistics report.Reuters

Measured by 'usual Sunday attendance' – which parishes are invited to estimate based on their experience throughout the year – the figure is 722,000. 

The report says most key measures of attendance fell by between 10 and 20 per cent from 2007 to 2017.

However, when numbers attending midweek services are added, the number is 895,000, with a further 197,000 people attending services for schools in Church of England churches.

The 'Worshipping Community', which includes those who regularly attend once a month or more, is larger still, having risen slightly to 1.14 million people. Of these, 20 per cent were aged under 18, 49 per cent were aged 18-69 and 32 per cent were aged 70 or over. This figure represents two per cent of the population, as opposed to the weekly attendance which represents 1.6 per cent.

Around 4.8 per cent of the population – 2.68 million – attend CofE churches at Christmas, representing the fourth successive rise in numbers since 2013.

Combined with figures for special services in churches during Advent, including carol services, there were nearly 8 million attendances over the festive season.

The Statistics for Mission 2017 were published as #FollowTheStar, the Church of England's campaign to encourage people to attend Advent and Christmas services this year, was launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Meanwhile separate figures also published today show that the Church of England more than doubled its monthly reach on social media - from 1.2 million in 2017 to 2.44 million this year.

The Church of England's Advent and Christmas campaign in 2017 was four times bigger than the previous year, with reach rising from 1.5 million to 6.8 million.

And the Church's Royal Wedding prayer and videos for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were seen more than five million times on social media.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: 'We live in an age of rapid social change affecting all aspects of life – right down to people's working patterns and how they spend their weekends. It is really striking to see how churches are responding and evolving in the face of that.

'While there's a downward pattern in Sunday attendance, the fact that Worshipping Community – membership – figures are stable shows that for many people, being part of the Church is more than just a matter of what they do on a Sunday morning.

'We are also reaching more people than ever through social media, providing a Christian presence to those who might not otherwise walk through the door of a church.

'And millions encounter the Church in their daily lives, through its commitment to the most vulnerable from food bank provision to night shelters, lunch clubs and community cafes.'