church attendance

As we reported recently the latest annual official CofE attendance (and other) statistics were published on 15 September.

The 22 September issue of the Church Times carried some major articles related to this and some separate national research. Here are the links to those articles:

Faint signs of hope in church census results

The ‘regulars’ who come only once a year by Peter Brierley

Jesus and the 5000-ish by David Thomas

Breaking free from parish bounds by Sue Johns

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MerseymikeNPDavid Rowett (=mynsterpreost)Simon SarmientoCheryl Clough Recent comment authors
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Cheryl Clough
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The minister of my last parish commented last year that they had solved the problem of people who come only for Christmas, Easter and special events like Baptisms. They had complained to the people so often that they only show up for these events, that the people listened and stopped coming to those too. When I was young, people used to see that coming to church was a sign that God was moving to bring you back into a relationship with God. People found it easier to heed God at Christmas and Easter, but if they trusted God they would… Read more »

The Admiral of Morality
Guest

Dr. Williams has sent out his appeal to “save” Canterbury Cathedral. Perhaps the masses will come flocking back to the parishes on the winds of such an auspicious and elegant appeal. As another goad to attendance the CoE should include seek a word inserts. The mystery words could be selections of Dr. Williams’ uncannily dense pronouncements on this or that matter of burning Anglican issues, surely the makings of a puzzle for the ages.

As we say at sea, heave to!

The AoM

laurence
Guest
laurence

Thank Goodness Jesus’ message speaks of the Kingdom / Commonwealth of the heavens !!

The secret growing of the seed,the generosity of the muslim* incomer while the bishops ‘pass by on the other side’, the hidden treasures of the heart, the widow’s mite & the poor in cash or in spirit are incalculable. As are all those who brake bread with thanksful hearts; not to mention the 2s and the 3s gathered together in the spirit of love, generosity or joy…

AlaninLondon
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AlaninLondon

I know that there are many factors governing the decline of church attendance. But how can it help to to continue to alienate those who are gay or lesbian? If we take the conservative estimate of 5% of the population as being gay, we, in the UK, are speaking millions of people who are denigrated and vilified by the church, and feel there is no place for them within its doors. But it is not just they who are alienated by the church’s stance. Add to the number the parents who love their gay son or lesbian daughter, their brothers… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

If we who do not fit and are not conformed are banned from following Jesus of Nazareth inside the CoE or other Anglican churches, then simply we will try to follow outside, as indeed we do try to follow outside in daily life. I would/will miss the generosity of getting to see just about everybody, sooner or later, around the Lord’s Table – is not God already sorting out the wheat and the tares in all of our lives? – and greatly will miss that grateful chance to marvel at how God works so variously in different believer’s lives. But… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

The figures show that whilst there are fewer people, those who are left attend more often. Thus the fringe is being lost, presumably often part of the “other” – in the Church of England the evangelicals are declining by just under 1%, the Catholics by just under 1.5% and other by some 2.25%. The other is the interesting figure: I doubt that dedicated liberals are declining by any more than dedicated evangelicals, but the odd matter is that these other dedicated types are going too, presumably to other churches (and numbers of dedicated liberals transferring to Unitarians and Quakers, for… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

I wonder if God creates special little havens for ultrapuritans in heaven? A small little reality where they are not confronted with the presence of those who they condemned and harassed in this lifetime. I often contemplate that these boxes are made of one-way glass. Where the rest of us can look in and be reassured that they are there, but they can not see beyond and so are not shocked by God’s inclusive love. Snicker.

John
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John

I know that there are many factors governing the decline of church attendance. But how can it help to to continue to alienate those who are pagan or animist? If we take the conservative estimate of 5% of the population as being pagan, we, in the UK, are speaking millions of people who are denigrated and vilified by the church, and feel there is no place for them within its doors. The only thing that stops the CoE being universally popular is our failure to abandon all doctrines that upset people who don’t subscribe to our beliefs. If we just… Read more »

Bill Carroll
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Bill Carroll

What you are describing is essentially hell, though it doesn’t resemble the cosmic torture chamber that neo-puritan revenge fantasies concoct. The neo-Puritans don’t know they’re in hell, but they are. Not much wrong with this particular hell. The people in it are missing some of their more interesting brothers and sisters. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit will continue to knock on their hearts until they are able to receive the whole Gospel. And then for them, the wall is broken down, much as Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile on the cross.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“I often contemplate that these boxes are made of one-way glass. Where the rest of us can look in and be reassured that they are there, but they can not see beyond and so are not shocked by God’s inclusive love.” Oh, I think not. God is much more loving than that. We will all be at the great wedding feast, seated so that we will always be nearest those we most quarreled with in this life, and we will keep saying, as more and more come to the banquet, “OH! You are here! I’ll bet you didn’t think to… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

Thanks Pluralist, that was terrific! I’d like to read more of your writing …

dangerouslysubversivedad
Guest

You guys are absolutely hilarious. You just dont have the faintest, tiniest clue why you are in terminal decline and why Churches that actually preach unimportant things like, ooh I dont know, following the Bible maybe (?) are increasing their congregations.

HINT: There’s a small clue for you in that last sentence. But feel free to dismiss it, after all I’m just an ignorant atheist sniggering at a bunch of Christians telling each other the only way to save their Church is to ignore the Bible.

Bill Carroll
Guest
Bill Carroll

Who suggested we ignore the Bible? And who suggested that Church growth was automatically a sign of faithfulness? You can grow the Church by telling a bunch of likeminded people what they want to here and by confirming their prejudices. Or the preaching of the Gospel can convert people to a new way of life.

Pluralist
Guest

Thank you Laurence. My website, Learning Area, Religion contains a jumble of things from the academic to the school RE resource to the chatty. I am currently trying to do a review of Cupitt’s (July 2006) The Old Creed and the New, London: SCM Press and then find somewhere to send it as well as put it on my website. Some of that thinking is in my comment above: I kind of agree with Cupitt yet with a long string of buts, and the issue arises about being religious as a process and a necessary (?) archaism in language in… Read more »

dangerouslysubversivedad
Guest

Funny, the more traditional interpretations of the Gospel filled the pews for, oooh, hundreds of years. Your version, your ‘new way of life’…with all due respect it doesnt seem to be working all that well by comparison does it? The CofE v.2006 has never been more unpopular, never been more disliked by Christians in general, and has certainly never ever been laughed at so much by the populace of the country it began in. What does that tell you? I have no stake in this as an atheist. But the sarcastic comments that ‘John’ makes above are 100% the public… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

And we are talking about tiny numbers in any case.

The only growth industries in religious terms are new age and secularism

David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
Guest
David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)

I think, Mr Carroll, if you were to look at the correspondent’s blog , you might conclude either that he does not quite share the same planet as most of hom. sap. sap or (and more probably) that he’s practising his wind-up skills. Either way, it’s probably best not to encourage him by taking him too seriously.

dangerouslysubversivedad
Guest

Ooooh that was just mean! I’m almost hurt that someone so obviously in tune with the feelings of his potential congregation that they are charging away in the opposite direction as fast their faith and legs will carry them thinks I am on another planet lol.

And yes, that was me practicing my windup skills yet further. Though Liberal Anglicans are such a huge target I can’t miss even from all the way out here on my Nasty Right-Wing Planetoid.

David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
Guest
David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)

Well, the aversion of dangerouslysubversivedad to fundamentalism evidenced on his blog is such that his espousal of the merits of fundamentalism in a Christian frame is positively Machiavellian/Dawkinsian — and I salute his ingenuity.

After all, it’d never do to have an expression of Christianity which did not require that, up-on finding God one had to bid farewell to one’s marbles:-))

NP
Guest
NP

fantastic – I do not need to comment becaue the atheist is talking common sense!

Cheryl Clough
Guest

There is a huge disparity between differences of opinions between souls committed to trying to help the world and trusting God and Jesus to help, than people who simply come to stir up the pot because they enjoy creating dissension. The former at least have the credibility of trying to be part of the solution, even when they vehemently disagree with others. The latter are simply trouble makers that every sensible village learns to recognise and leave on the margins with their piles of rubble. Such souls if they were not taking pot shots at us would be taking them… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

I stand corrected. There are some people who would rather consort with people like this than with those who acknowledge God and Jesus. For the rest of us, we can chuckle at David Kuo’s book “Tempting Faith: A story of political seduction”. Some of my favourite highlights from various reviews and an amazon link can be found here http://forum.wombatwonderings.org/viewtopic.php?t=23

Mike Jericho
Guest

How can it help to continue to insist upon the Ten Commandments, thus alienating those people who are adulterers, murderers etc ? If we take the figure of 30% of the UK male population as having a criminal record, there will be millions of ordinary thieves and idolaters who feel that there is no place for them …

[Laban sends his regards]

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Funny, the more traditional interpretations of the Gospel filled the pews for, oooh, hundreds of years.” Is that’s what it was? So making it socially unacceptable, at times even illegal, not to go to Church had nothing to do with it? Linking social, political, and economic success to church attendance was meaningless? All those people went to Church for love of the Gospel as Conservatives think it was interpreted back then? No-one was so messed up that they were easily manipulated by a message of “believe or burn”? You know, informed atheism is OK, most of the people I know… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Thats because you are both extremists, NP. Black or white, in or out, right or wrong.

So out of touch with emerging postmodern society in the West

David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)
Guest
David Rowett (=mynsterpreost)

The full pews of Olde Englande are something of a romantic dream. Martyn Percy, now principal of Cuddesdon theological college, did quite a bit of research on churchgoing habits of the past and found that the rosy dreams were just that. It was, for example, quite normal for a warden to get the parson out of bed on a Sunday if (and I stress the word ‘if’)anyone had turned up for divine service.

It wasn’t quite the Christian utopia in those heady pre-liberal days that some would have us believe in!

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“So out of touch with emerging postmodern society in the West”

Merseymike,
So? Frankly, there’s a lot of post modern society I would only be too glad not to touch.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

And to continue on Ford and Davids’ themes. There were also issues about getting work and where you would get work (e.g. in Australia some businesses were known as “catholic” and others as “protestant”). Then there was the question of getting a suitable marriage – being known as a contributor to the church community elevated a girl’s status and thus suitability as a bride, and boys who were to church were also see as more suitable. To a large extent the latter still happens today, and I have no issue with that. What did happen then was that society was… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

Mike Jericho, forgive me -all my life I’d thought (with Wm Temple)that “the Church exists for the sake of its none members” !
Furthermore, I believe a ne’er-do-well Jew with a capital criminal record also consorted with criminals, murderers, prostitutes and quizzlings. But then he wasn’t even a Church member, either himself….

Lovely to have word of Laban too.

Pluralist
Guest

Here is my memory of a discussion in a church group earlier (I’m still awake): http://www.faithspace.co.uk/forums/index.php?showtopic=7075 Now what are we supposed to do, as an apparent means of boosting church attendance numbers: imagine it is otherwise? Is religion forced to be a kind of false conversation, devoid of historical method and critical thinking? There are several variant outcomes to the conversation: that is how it is. If you take a tradition and expand into it, sift it out and ask a few questions, then others might say, “Hang on this might be quite interesting.” Not that everything is about thinking,… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Merseymike, David and Ford – my large “fundamentalist” (in your eyes) Anglican church is too full and that is after it has started 5 other churches in the last 5 years…… IN ENGLAND (not Africa!!!) – amazing what God does when we listen to him! Also, we regularly see English atheists come along …..hear the Word and many become Christians – again, amazing what God does even in the West! So, don’t ignore the atheist. He is telling us that the baseless “beleive what you like, live how you will and be a nice person” message has no attraction to… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“beleive what you like, live how you will and be a nice person” NP. This is getting a bit much. Who teaches this? Who ever said this was Christianity? Certainly not me, or most other people on this list, as far as I can see. Pretending that we do so that you can dismiss it is pretty much bearing false witness. I have never heard “liberals” say this either. In fact, there is always great concern for following the Tradition. There is a great deal of patristics in what most “liberals” say, numerous citations of the Fathers, Scripture, and on… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

NP ; you are part of a local ‘star church’. They exist in every area. But their expansion doesn’t even begin to match those lost to the Church, yet alone the huge numbers outside who feel that it is either entirely alienating to them or that it has nothing to say to them. What you fail to understand is that there always has been and always will be a market for conservative Christianity.But its very much a minority sport and repels far more than it attracts. If you don’t realise that, try talking to those outside and find out what… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Ford, thank you for taking the time to do a long posting. It is so annoying to have someone describe what you are and then attack their description and then claim victory over you. It is slanderous, based on errancy, and simply sloppy thinking. It is no wonder they have had to rely on censorship and suppression, because if people can talk and read material from those who have been stereotyped, they find out that we are not the cartoon figures as described by slanderers, are much more diverse, sophisticated and complicated than we are portrayed. They also find out… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

‘Being anice person’ has a lot to be said for it. This is my own aspiration…

laurence
Guest
laurence

NP the Atheist ‘ is probably a C of E bishop !

Pluralist that was terrific ! Thaty’s how I certainly think of doing theology / theol. reflection rather than having a package dumped on one !

Betty Edwards’ books have much light to shed on all this…— but we’ll have to roll our sleaves up !

laurence
Guest
laurence

John seems to think there was once a golden age of church attendance ! –or is he or she being disingenuous ?! Probably !….

And he is no more ( -or less ! atheist than me !)

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Cheryl,
It’s not that I take the time to do a long post, it’s that I am constitutionally verbose and unable to shut up.

NP
Guest
NP

Ford – I know lots of “liberals”….on Synods! And yes, I know “liberals” who teach little more than “be nice and you can do and think what you like as long as nobody is harmed.” My chaplain at Cambridge University years ago was just like that – and no, it was not the current ABC! (Chapel was empty, CU was full!) Many people in the synods are like that….and never seem to make the link between the lack of people coming to hear what they teach and what they are teaching…some blame the full evo churches and others even blame… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

But the nature of being on a Synod says something about the character of the soul. By its nature it means accepting and/or choosing to be part of organizational politics. There are some “liberals” who eschew organizational politics and could almost be called anarchistic in their wariness of organizations. I’ve seen a number of articles recently that have referred to Jesus as an anarchistic vagrant who hung around with his mates and the outcastes. And his acts such overturning of the tables in the temple and blunt rebuttals to establishment figures was not the behaviour of someone who longed to… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

NP, Among the people I know, I am the only one who goes to church. Everyone else has an almost violent hatred for the Church, and everyone will say in no uncertain terms that it is because of legalistic attitudes like yours. One friend refers to Christianity as “a dispicable religion”. He thinks that way because of his experience of the Church. Doesn’t that bother you? If people believe false things about your dearest friend, would you rather confirm all that they believe or help them see the truth?They have experienced the liberating Gospel of Christ as a tool of… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

Ford – your friend’s reaction does not bother me. He does not know me! He is your friend and I am sure you are showing him that he is wrong through your life and words. As you know, the parable of the sower explains certain reactions and predicts most will be negative but the fact remains that even in postmodern, theologically ignorant England, I see time and time again that those outside the church do come and stay when they are given the Biblical message without compromise and with love. This is why I do not believe we evos put… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

oh dear — not only is my religion wishy-washy in both its(non)theory and practice, but also I hope one day to morph into a nice person ( if at all poss). There’s an awful lot in the bible that ain’t very nice, including some some not very nice characters-including one ‘Yahweh’ –but he only occurs in translations into ‘English’ by Christians. You won’t find tradtional marriage much either –you know as defined by President Bush & Canon Harmon –‘one man, one woman’. In fact, you’ll find most forms of heterosexual coupling imaginable (and some that are not!, You will also… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

My partner and I attended evensong in a Welsh cathedral, the service was ‘up in the Quire’ as there were about 7 old ladies, an old man and an organist and a Dean. How I enjoyed the ferial responses and Welsh hymns. How moved I was, to tears in fact (for all the wrong wishy washy reasons probably). Did the tiny numbers, the great age, the genders and the very ancient ‘non-state’ language invalidate the whole thing? Perhaps my own 52 years of regular church attendance marks me out, as unkool, passe and not what the brave new Anglican regime… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Laurence, Your passion got away with you, don’t drag the angels into power hungry men’s oppressive paradigms. There’s the odd bad one and it is more polite to criticize them by name than to overgeneralize the whole group. Even people of faith like to be distinguished from violence mongerers – e.g. I don’t see the Anglican church jumping over itself to acknowledge the Protestant roots to Hitler’s justifications. After all, isn’t that what GLBTs and those who would love them want? To have the bad apples distinguished from the bulk of their classification and not be lumped all together. If… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Just goes to show, NP, that you can use the bible to justify anything – in your case, the clear evidence that the vast majority of people in the UK have no interest in evangelical Christianity, and never will have.

laurence
Guest
laurence

I meant the studies of angels dancing habits, on needle heads, Cheryl !

Let me digest the rest of your post when I am fresh.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Laurence, thanks for that clarification, it mollifies my concern about your original posting. In that sense, I would join your comments with by adding that deliberations about how many angels can fit on a pin head are meaningless if the angels and those that study them ignore injustice and hypocrisy that is happening outside their hallowed libraries.

NP
Guest
NP

Merseymike – listen to what I say…..we evos see so many Brits (all classes and races) coming in every year we are struggling for space…….so I do not buy that we are putting people off. And our actions speak louder than your words – we are praying and working very hard…. and giving lots of money sacrificially to reach all the people in the UK who do not know Christ…..just look at Alpha and how God uses it – so, it is a bit rich to say we do not care when our actions show we clearly do and God… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

If people fit in with the community and are comfortable in the community then all is dandy. The issues that welfare and support counsellors have are the people who are spat out of the church communities. The problem is not that the community looks after its own. The problem is when the community not only does not look after those that are not their own, but that they pursue and attack those souls e.g. denying them civil liberties, slandering their character, breaking up their marriages. It is fascinating to read the case studies of what happens to people who are… Read more »