Saturday, 7 April 2012

Cathedral attendance statistics

The Church of England has published the latest cathedral attendance statistics and this press release.

Cathedral attendance statistics enjoy over a decade of growth

03 April 2012

Attendance levels at regular weekly services in Church of England cathedrals have steadily increased by 30% since the turn of millennium, a growth of approximately 3% on average each year, according to the latest statistics, published today. In 2011, figures for ‘average normal midweek attendance’ were at their highest levels since records began in 2000 for both adults and children; the figure for Sunday attendance was up slightly, too, for adults.

There is more good news in the figures for Christmas and Easter attendance, both showing stability across the decade, with Christmas attendance up 17% in 2011 compared with 2010.

The statistics are published online here.

Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics, said: “These figures demonstrate how cathedrals are very much a vibrant centre of spiritual life in our cathedral cities.”

The Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester and chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said: “Cathedrals are wonderful places in which to worship and fascinating places to visit - and all are invited to join us as we mark Holy Week and Easter with special services.”

The remainder of the press release, summarising the statistics, is below the fold.

Sunday and total weekly attendance

Sunday services in Cathedrals are usually attended by 15,900 adults and 2,200 children and young people. Including those who only attend midweek services, the total attendance figures rise to 28,000 and 6,800 respectively. Westminster Abbey adds, on average, 2,000 people each week to these numbers.

Cathedrals are key places of daily Christian worship outside Sundays, and Midweek attendance continues to be very significant, the statistics reveal. In 2011, those attending just midweek services increased total attendance levels by 92%, adding an additional 76% to the number of adult attenders and more than doubling the number of children over the whole week.

Easter and Christmas 2011

In 2011, approximately 129,100 people attended services in cathedrals on either or both Christmas Day and Christmas Eve while services over Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, attracted attendances of 776,400. This is an increase of over 17% compared to 2010 and is probably due, at least in part, to good weather and Christmas day falling on a Sunday. Attendance at Easter 2011 was 47,900, slightly higher than the previous year. Many cathedrals have been offering additional services to respond to the space restrictions that continue to limit attendance levels. Westminster Abbey adds over 8,000 adults, children and young people to Christmas Day/Eve attendance and more than 29,000 over the Advent season.

Comparable figures from parish churches are currently being collected and collated.


In 2011, approximately 740 baptisms (and thanksgivings for the birth of a child), 330 marriages (and blessings of marriage), 340 funerals and 90 memorial services were conducted by cathedral clergy. The number of baptisms of young people and adults (over 13 years of age) and of child baptisms (aged 1 to 12 years) have increased by about one third over the decade, whilst the number of baptisms of babies under one year of age remained broadly stable. As a result, overall, the number of baptisms in cathedrals has increased by 9% over the decade.

Educational events

In 2011, 286,450 children attended educational events at cathedral, a reduction of 1% compared to 2010, with Westminster Abbey adding a further 11,770. In addition, a further 9,720 children are being educated at schools associated with cathedrals. Over 2,000 of these children and adults are involved week by week in providing cathedral music. In addition, 850 children (under 16 years of age) are involved in singing in other Cathedral choirs and 1,360 are voluntary choir members.

Volunteers and visitors

Over the last 10 years the number of volunteers involved in the mission and ministry of cathedrals on a regular basis has increased by 24% to 14,500, an average of 345 volunteers for every cathedral (down slightly on the high point in 2009 when there were 15,040 volunteers). In contrast, over the last 10 years, the number of visitors reported has gradually reduced by approximately 1.9 million to 9,520,980, that is, around 44,900 for every cathedral. With the addition of Westminster Abbey and other Royal Peculiars and, given the imprecise nature of visitor counting, the estimated total number of visitors to cathedrals remains at the 2010 level of 12 million.

The statistics and associated graphs are available in full here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 10:59am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | statistics

Thee is an extraordinary attempt by Peter Ould on his blog to debunk these statistics. It is also suggested there that charges at some cathedrals are leading to an increase in weekday attandance since that is the only way to get in free.

I think that is much more likely that people come to cathedrals not only for the liturgy, music and preaching but also for exactly the reason given by Rowan Williams in his recent BBC discussion in which he says that he has every sympathy with people of little faith coming precisely because they don;t have to 'face a doctrine exam at the door'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 1:19pm BST

People don't face a doctrine exam coming to a Unitarian church, but what they can get in a cathedral and not in a Unitarian church is anonymity. Hungry for members, a church wants its recruits to get involved even if would offer space, whereas many people don't want to be involved or take the risk or even be much noticed.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 5:55pm BST

What always strikes me about any cathedral service on a Sunday is the large number of clergy involved , with many seemingly doing little if anything, and often looking very self important in the process . This seems a strange luxury when you consider how hard pressed many of the parish clergy are in having to cover the many churches under their care . It would do much to enhance the standing of a cathedral as the Mother Church of the Diocese if it were to send some of its under-utilised clergy out into the parishes to lend a much needed hand. We are in the resource scarce 21st Century, not 19th Century Barchester .

Posted by: M.Elcock on Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 6:09pm BST

I know you dislike my saying this, Richard, but cathedrals work against local churches in all sorts of obvious ways. That seems inevitable - but cathedrals have a duty not to make this worse by unnecessarily duplicating the efforts of local churches. Of this, they (and I'm generalising from Durham) are much less cognisant.

Posted by: john on Saturday, 7 April 2012 at 7:08pm BST

When ever the subject of cathedrals come up on this and other blogs there always seems to be an perceived antipathy betwen them and parish churches. I don't understand why this should be so since ideally they have different but complementary roles in mission and this certainly my experience, having been a member of and active in both over many years. I hope no one is suggesting that Cathedrals should revert to their moribund state of 150 years ago. That they attract large congregations and have effective outreach suggests to me that they offer something that worshipers want and need, but then so do thriving parish churches and both have their place in the life of the church.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 9:13am BST

The chrism mass at Southwark was wonderful - gave me such a (welcome) boost !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 1:40pm BST

Richard A,

Which part of what I wrote (here ) was "extraordinary"? Perhaps you'd like to tell us all where I got the statistical analysis wrong? Since it's a very easy matter of just repeating my work, you should be able to actually pinpoint what I wrote that was wrong, rather than just dismiss it as "extraordinary".

Posted by: Peter Ould on Sunday, 8 April 2012 at 7:05pm BST

I looked for Peter Ould's article that he cites here, questioning the statistics on Church of England Cathedrals, but it has obviously been withdrawn - presumably by the author for some reason. On wonders what that reason could be.

ED: No, the problem was a closing parenthesis being interpreted as part of the URL. I have inserted a space to correct this problem.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 9 April 2012 at 11:37am BST

One day Ron you will try assuming the best of me, not the worst.

Posted by: Peter Ould on Monday, 9 April 2012 at 7:27pm BST

Most refreshing news - as every media item about the Church - includes a compulsory reference to "declining numbers" or "empty pews" - it's good to hear a story of significant growth.
So - why not close down all the parish churches and upgrade a significant number to cathedral status - after all - we've got more than enough Suffragan and Assistant Bishops who would, I'm sure, love to have their own cathedra in in their own cathedral. Let's see if that strategy can reverse the decline. Then, all cathedrals could (like York and an increasing number elsewhere) also become Minsters from whence the remaining diocesan clergy could evangelise and minister to the hinterland. It seemed to work quite well in the seventh century - so why not in the twenty first?

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 at 8:42am BST

My apologies Peter(Ould), for premature judgement!

Christus Resurrexit!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 at 9:56am BST

Cathedrals? Could it be excellence in music, liturgy and (usually) sermons/homilies? Along with the anonymity and not being "rushed" to get involved in local "busyness", and other often threatening concerns to often anxious newcomers. And being one in many allows the many to hide from the increasingly distasteful politics that manifest themselves more readily in a local situation, than the large cathedral in the larger and relatively distant cathedral town. The need for spirituality is great, can the church get out of it's way and do anything about it other than to pine away about female bishops and the presence of queer folk? Wake up and smell the coffee, the cathedrals are giving us the answers.

Posted by: even on Friday, 13 April 2012 at 2:40am BST

Quite so, "even", which is why we need more of them. There are numerous large parish churches around the country that could quite easily be upgraded to cathedral status - Beverley Minster - Boston Stump - Bath Abbey - to name but three. Instead of Suffragans acting as Episcopal curates - give them (as all proper bishops should have) a cathedra in their own cathedral. One bishop per diocese - a far better system than a diocese with multiple bishops.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 13 April 2012 at 10:10am BST
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