Thursday, 3 February 2011

Church of England provisional attendance figures for 2009

The Church of England has released its provisional attendance figures for 2009 today. Details are in the press release, which is copied below.

The full figures are in this pdf file.

Provisional attendance figures for 2009 released: attending a local CofE church continues to be part of a typical week for 1.1 million people

The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England show that approaching 1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services each month, and around 1.1 million attend church as part of a typical week - and not just on a Sunday.

Total attendance

The total number of adults, children and young people attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the seven years since 2002, with the 2009 figures showing a drop of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in 2008. The total number of under 16s was virtually unchanged compared to 2008 and remained more than two percent higher than 2002.

People continue to attend church on other days than Sunday. For every 50 people attending church or cathedrals on a typical Sunday, another 10 attend during the week and an extra 37 in total over a month.

The Revd Lynda Barley, the Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics, comments: “The figures released today, covering regular local church attendees, give an important but inevitably partial snapshot of today’s Church. They paint a mixed picture for 2009. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under 16s in church holding steady and growth in church attendance in 16 out of 44 dioceses, there are continued challenges, with further small declines in traditional attendance measures. Churches continue to be central to community life and are responding positively to changes in modern day lifestyles with a growing range of opportunities to participate in church life. Excluded from these figures are Fresh Expressions, chapel services in hospitals, education and other establishments, some international congregations and the projects funded by the Youth Evangelism Fund.

“It remains important to see these trends in the context of wider changes in a society where fewer people join and take part in membership organizations. Even in a General Election year, almost double the number of members of the three main political parties taken together will attend a Church of England parish church on a Sunday. Nevertheless, the figures are a further reminder of the importance, highlighted in the report - Challenges for the Quinquennium - which Synod will be debating next week, of achieving sustained numerical and spiritual growth over the coming years.”

continued below the fold

In summary: Average weekly attendance was down slightly at 1,131,000 (2008: 1,145,000; 2007: 1,160,000), as was average monthly attendance at 1,651,000 (2008: 1,667,000; 2007: 1,690,000). while average Sunday attendance dropped two per cent to 944,000 (2008: 960,000; 2007: 978,000) The average number of children and young people at services each week was slightly down at 223,000 (2008: 225,000; 2007: 219,000). The number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis was virtually unchanged at 436,000 (2008: 438,000; 2007: 424,000), while other research reveals that a further 375,000 attend other church based activities.

Marking life events

The total number of baptisms dropped one per cent, with increases in the number of ‘child’ and ‘adult’ baptisms (those aged one year and older) of three per cent and six per cent, respectively. The number of ‘infant’ baptisms (under one year old) fell by three per cent. The number of Thanksgivings for the birth of a child fell by two per cent.

The number of marriages taking place in parish churches was down one per cent at 52,700. Blessings of marriages following a civil ceremony fell (by nine per cent, to 3,900). The total number of weddings in the UK in 2009 has not yet been published, although numbers have been falling gradually in recent years.

The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England also dropped (by six per cent, to 176,700), particularly those taking place in crematoria (by nine per cent, to 85,600); this is against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of deaths fell by 3.5 per cent between 2008 and 2009).

Nine in ten Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts. These have been verified across all 16,000 Church of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council. The provisional figures can be seen on the web.

Celebrating festivals

Widespread snow and ice badly effected Christmas Day attendances in 2009, with some churches forced to cancel services. Attendances and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday were little changed from 2008.

In summary: Attendance at Church of England local church services on Christmas Eve/Day 2009 was down nine per cent at 2,420,600 (2008: 2,647,200; 2007: 2,656,800). These figures do not include the large number attending at other services related to Christmas, for example, Christingle and carol services during Advent. Easter observance was little changed at 1,411,200 (2008: 1,415,800; 2007: 1,469,000).

The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish churches rose one per cent from 1,179,000 to 1,197,000. The historic ‘usual Sunday attendance’ measure (see note below for definition) fell two per cent to 826,000 (2008: 845,000; 2007: 868,000).


Fresh Expressions is a movement led by the Church of England and the Methodist Church to nurture contemporary forms of church life alongside traditional ones ( Fresh Expressions are being formed in a variety of ways, from new congregations targeting particular groups such as Goths, to café churches and skateboard parks.

The Youth Evangelism Fund is supported by the Archbishops’ Council (50 per cent), the Henry Smith Charity, the Laing Family Trusts, and the Jerusalem Trust. It aims to enable more young people to connect with the Gospel and develop faith within the life of the Church by allowing young people to share faith with their peers in ways that make sense to them. Each year for five years, eight to 10 dioceses are receiving YEF support to resource new ideas for mission.

Membership of the three main political parties fell from a total of c.781,000 in 2000, to c.476,000 in 2008. Taken from House of Commons Library research paper, August 2009.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 72 per cent affiliate themselves with Christianity and of those who affiliate with Christianity, 32 per cent are practising. The data comes from the Citizenship Survey 2008/9 and Social Trends.

Definition of terms

Average Sunday attendance: the average number of attendees at Sunday church services, typically over a four-week period in October.

Average weekly attendance: the average number of attendees at church services throughout the week, typically over a four-week period in October.

Each of the above measures is provided separately for adults and children/young people aged under 16 years. The highest and lowest counts over the four-week period are calculated as follows:

Highest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the highest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period. The ‘highest’ figures on the accompanying tables are proxies (in fact under-estimates) for monthly attendance levels.

Lowest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the lowest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period.

Attendance figures are only included where local churches held at least one church-based service (which included adult presence) during the week under examination.

The traditional (em>usual Sunday attendance (uSa) measure is interpreted differently across the dioceses and is therefore not regarded as statistically accurate as a comparison.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 12:12pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | statistics

How does this compare to the number of people entering nursing homes, or otherwise living in situations where getting to church is difficult or impossible?

What is the place of part-time, casual labour which may require Sunday morning shifts? In tougher economic times, are more people taking this sort of work?

It's difficult to respond to statistics like these without knowing the reasons for the decline in attendance.

Posted by: Kathryn on Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 5:41pm GMT

I see Average Weekly Attendance (all ages) in the diocese where I live (Southwell & Nottingham) is down 8.2% in ONE year. And all other attendance measures are down by AT LEAST 3%. Ouch!

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 3 February 2011 at 7:24pm GMT

Any real growth is amongst the conservative liberal parish can match their numbers.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Friday, 4 February 2011 at 7:22am GMT


I would be interested to see the data source for your assertion. The data I see show that:

- cathedral attendance has grown very strongly over the last decade, and cathedrals are rarely bastions of conservative evangelicalism (CofE statistics);

- the one analysis that has been done of churchmanship and growth showed that churches led by clergy who attended liberal theological colleges were growing faster than ones led by those who attended conservative ones (Bob Jackson, "Going for Growth").

I should say, I'm not myself arguing that growth is only found in cathedrals or only found in liberal churches. Just curious about the basis for your assertion, when the available data I can see appear to run in the opposite direction.

In Christ,


Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Friday, 4 February 2011 at 9:31am GMT

As if numbers indicated righteousness...remember, Noah and his family were the only righteous ones God could find; Abraham asked for merely one righteous man to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 4 February 2011 at 11:37am GMT

What is a liberal parish? Most parishes contain people on various points of the anglican spectrum in my experience. And the sheep are not always in awe of the theological nostrums of their shepherds. Most C of E parishes esp in the country or small towns are middle of the road ...or a bit above or below. Yes in big cities and university towns there are some strong (eclectic ) evangelical churches which attract large numbers ( though not always simply because of the message preached).As someone has already commented cathedrals are something of a success story. In west London where I once served there are a good number of parishes which would self-designate as liberal catholic, which remain mostly parochial and have an a s a in the hundreds as do many "central" suburban parishes.The Evangelical churches strong suit is evangelising the unchurched, for which we must all be grateful...but the C of E ( not least its episcopate) has a lot of "lapsed" evangelicals.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Friday, 4 February 2011 at 7:19pm GMT

"no liberal parish can match their numbers" [sic] says RIW.

Southwark Cathedral?
St. Alban's Abbey?

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Saturday, 5 February 2011 at 2:32am GMT

The key question is where is the huge growth that was promised in General Synod by, among others, Archbishop Carey who used it as one as one of the justifications of the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood nearly 20 years ago?

Posted by: A seeker after truth on Saturday, 5 February 2011 at 6:33pm GMT

Gerry, Cathedrals really should not be compared with Parish Churches. For one thing they are funded very generously from central funds and have choirs, tat and an anonymity that attracts an eclectic congregation from way beyond any area of a traditional Parish. Indeed, the Cathedrals probably ought to encourage their congregations to support their own local Parish churches. Southwark has 6 full time Clergy and an electoral roll of only 600.

Posted by: A seeker after truth on Saturday, 5 February 2011 at 7:43pm GMT

Jesmond parish church...1400

All souls Langham place 1300

Holy Trinity Brompton Road... 760

St Mary's Cheadle Hume 670

Bishop Hannington 760

Sevenoaks St nicholas 560..

St Nicholas Durham 700

and the list could go on and on.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Saturday, 5 February 2011 at 8:15pm GMT


Again, it would be good to see what statistics back up your assertion that only conservative evangelical churches are growing. The list of static figures you provide does not even show whether those churches are growing, and does nothing to demonstrate your claim that there is no real growth elsewhere.

The evangelical movement has been going for two centuries within the Church of England and has made a vibrant contribution over that time. But if only evangelical churches grow, after two hundred years the church would be entirely (or almost entirely) evangelical. This is palpably not the case.

PS A Seeker: Both St Alban's and Southwark are parish churches, in addition to being cathedrals.

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Sunday, 6 February 2011 at 8:51am GMT must know that at most, if not all cathedrals these days, the clergy also have diocesan jobs..they are not simply chaplains to the electoral roll.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 6 February 2011 at 9:17am GMT

I see that Jesmond has three services on Sunday.

As USA is supposed to avoid the double (or treble) counting of multiple attenders, that makes some 500 at each service.

Even were they "solid middle of the road Church of England" I couldn't cope with that every week. Or *any* week.

Posted by: John Roch on Sunday, 6 February 2011 at 4:53pm GMT

Perry and Stuart, diocesan jobs are indeed invented to cover this gross over-allocation of resources - I live close to Southwark cathedral so I know that it has an eclectic congregation and draws people and resources away from local Parish churches. Cathedrals are able to "tap" many exceptional sources of funding to support the building, staffing, music etc. The point I was making is that they are not suitable comparators to "ordinary" Parish Churches. I'm delighted that the Cathedrals thrive but please let's not pretend that 40-odd Cathedrals make up for the decline in thousands of Parish Churches around the country. The central unit of work and witness in the church of England is the Parish, not a cathedral or a Diocesan Office. It is the health of ordinary Parishes which is the source for grave concern.

Which leads me back to my key question - where is the huge growth that was promised in General Synod by, among others, Archbishop Carey who used it as one as one of the justifications of the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood nearly 20 years ago?

Posted by: Anglican voice on Sunday, 6 February 2011 at 6:35pm GMT

RIW, as usual, blows smoke. His data shows that a handful of evangelical parishes are growing - or at least, are large. It shows nowt else.

Fact is that there are growing and thriving evangelical parishes, growing and thriving Anglo-Catholic parishes, growing and thriving conservative parishes and growing and thriving liberal or progressive parishes.

Similarly, there are weak and declining liberal / progressive parishes, weak and declining conservative parishes, weak and declining Anglo-Catholic parishes and yes, even weak and declining evangelical parishes.

But then, facts wouldn't bolster RIW's "case" anywhere near as well as fancy and bluster.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Monday, 7 February 2011 at 4:23am GMT

Some comparative statistics might help to give a better picture. I imagine the established Church north of the border is suffering a similar numerical decline. It may even be worse.The Methodists and URC are probably declining at a faster rate and I suspect RC's in the north of England are also in significant decline...perhaps in the south they are benefitting from immigration ( as is the Diocese of London I imagine)
In the 60's historians of secularization said that numerical growth in the future would come mostly from sectarian religion..and it has baptists have held up , house church type religion has grown and black / pentecostal churches have clearly done rather well so have Mormons! Within the established denominations "sectarian" churches that concentrate on building up the congregation often at the expense of the wider mission of the C of E to the parish/society have also shown numerical growth but I would say at some cost...the decline of "the fringe" is not to my mind a necessarily good thing.In the 50's the C of E was "in touch" with a significant swathe of the english people who werent necessarily more than spasmodic attenders, than it is now..just think of uniformed organizations and church choirs.

To suggest the ordination of women ( or before that NSM's or LOM's) or the Decade of Evangelism etc would in themselves bring growth was just rather silly, given the sociological realities. We are in for a tough time with no easy answers, and the next decade will be esp challenging, not least with so many clergy retirements as the baby boomers reach 65-70. At least the ordination of women has ensured many parishes have pastors which they wouldnt otherwise have had, and the declining numbers of clergy has, in some places at least , galvanised the laity. I imagine there are far more readers/youth workers/administrators and so on than there were in the 60's when i think there were something like 16,000 full time C of E clergy.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Monday, 7 February 2011 at 12:18pm GMT

I know of no Anglo-catholic or liberal congregations planting churches...the facts speak for themselves.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Monday, 7 February 2011 at 8:48pm GMT

And, I know of no Roman Catholic church planting either. Indeed they appear to be closing parish churches in England quite steadily.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 7 February 2011 at 11:23pm GMT

And the Roman Catholic church is closing and consolidating parishes throughout the United States, as well.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 8 February 2011 at 2:54am GMT


Your approach seems to mimic that of Pauline Kael of "The New Yorker" - declaring after Nixon's landslide in '72, "I don't know how Nixon won, nobody I know voted for him."

However, if you are not interested in empirical statistics and are determined only to accept information that fits with your existing prejudices, there is nothing more to say.

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Tuesday, 8 February 2011 at 8:47am GMT

Of course there are Catholic church plants in areas where the Church is sound, but in this country with had a liberal hierarchy for 40 years, we are in decline.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Declining Mass attendance, appalling catechesis of the young and a total lack of spiritual discernmemnt.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Tuesday, 8 February 2011 at 8:52pm GMT

A liberal hierarchy since 1970? I would love a catholic historian like Eamon Duffy to comment on that. There may have been a few bishops who, in RC terms might be judged,moderate liberals but that hardly makes a 40 yr old "liberal" hierarchy.I doubt if the situation would have been any different if the hierarchy had been clones of Cardinal Siri.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 6:03pm GMT

one big problem , i think is people now have to work on sundays and would love to go to church, made worse there are no services during the week and only one on sunday, i think this is a huge problem where church is open once a week then closed for six days

Posted by: kevin gordon on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 10:51pm GMT

i work as a carer... and employers, companies, whether religious or non religious have a nearly total disregard of my natural religious rights.... if I attend a sunday mass its because of an oversight by my boss. It wasn't like this 15 years ago when employers asked and compromised and took seriously the needs of its religious minorities.

Posted by: brendan on Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 9:10pm GMT
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