Comments: Cathedral statistics 2015 released

Thix ix great news. Let's fund the cathedrals even more generously, and close down inner urban churches like mine that struggle to heat and maintain, never mind pay the share. After all, the C of E should play to its strengths, ministering to the middle clsses. The people who ring my bell wanting a train fare to a safe house near Euston (I do not exaggerate) can be directed to the Deanery.

Posted by Fr William at Saturday, 24 September 2016 at 7:51pm BST

Thank God for or cathedrals; for the traditions they preserve and the innovations they offer in worship.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Sunday, 25 September 2016 at 2:37pm BST

“These figures are extremely encouraging,” said the Very Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox, Dean of Liverpool. “They show that, up and down the country, cathedrals are sustaining the growth that has been reported for a number of years. Clearly, something about cathedral worship is meeting a need and contributing significantly to the spiritual life of the nation.

Well, if you look at the figures, you'll see that in almost every respect the figures show a steady level of activity over the last decade, which is of course better than the Church of England as a whole. But "sustaining growth" is wishful thinking at best and spin at worst.

The only clear increase is in midweek attendance, which has gone up from around 9000 to about 14000. [To discern long term trends it's probably best to average over a few years than just take a single year.] A total of 5000 people a week is great, of course, but not something to get over-excited about; only one in ten thousand of the entire population!

There is no doubt that Cathedrals are being encouraged by these figures both to promote their activity and to record it more accurately (both of which will probably result in an increased reported figure.) The Dean is surely right, also, in saying that Cathedrals are fulfilling a spiritual need---perhaps filling a gap that parish churches are not. What would be very interesting would be some careful research on Cathedral congregations, for example whether they are joining a Cathedral congregation in preference to a parish. Or is it simply that Cathedrals are promoting themselves as being similar to parishes? Or that they are providing something special that parishes might well emulate?

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Sunday, 25 September 2016 at 4:13pm BST

Partly in response to Turbulent Priest: anecdotal, but might contribute something to her/ his understanding.

As a cathedral clergyperson, I think some of the factors in cathedral attendance among our regular congregation include:

- quality of music and worship
- potential to receive rather than participate in worship, particularly but not only Evensong
- Links with cathedral developed through involvement in music (as choir parent, member of voluntary choir etc.) or civic event (local councillors who have to attend 3x a year and decide they like it) etc.
- sense of cathedral as "haven" from the nastiness (in their experience) of parish church politics
- sense of cathedral as place where commitment is optional (unlike some local parish churches)
- civic pride in cathedral
- sense of cathedral as aspirational (where the county set go) - this can also be a factor in non-attendance of course!
- desire for BCP (not otherwise very common in this city)

Specifically for midweek attenders:
- the cathedral in this city is one of the few places to have a regular daily pattern of morning Eucharist, midday Eucharist, Evensong timed in such a way that people can attend morning Eucharist before work, midday in their lunch break or Evensong after work. There are a number of people who attend one or more midweek services, regularly, because they work nearby and that's something they can fit into their week.
- Additionally, a lot of people locally work on "non-standard" work patterns: shifts, weekends, zero-hours contracts. This often means they physically can't get to church on a Sunday morning/ evening or a Wednesday evening (the usual times of services in most local parish churches) - but if they are able to get to the cathedral at 8 am, there will always be a Eucharist. For some of those people, it's simpler to make the cathedral their church rather than negotiating whether or not they will make it to their parish church this week.

Some of these reasons are more worthy than others. Some have been mentioned ad nauseam, but some I haven't seen mentioned.

Some might be replicatable in a parish church - especially in a large, well-resourced "minster" or "civic" type church. Many will not be - and actually, I think that's OK. Different churches appeal to different people - there are people who would never set foot in a cathedral for precisely the same reasons as others would. There is no sense all trying to do the same thing.

I think, though, the thing this cathedral is quite good at (and not necessarily conscious of) is inviting attendance. Many regulars are choir parents; regular services such as the Harvest are full; there is no embarrassment about inviting people to attend. Partly that's because of confidence that the quality will be high; partly that's the (very problematic) local prestige of the cathedral. But I think inviting people with confidence, especially to special services or based on existing links, is a fruitful thing for most churches to be doing.

Really saddened by Fr William's comment as well. I hope that - as a cathedral clergyperson - I am not sapping the resources of my diocese and deanery. In my cathedral ministry I also, as he does, see people in need of help. The congregation in our cathedral is not solely middle class. And we deliberately do not model ourselves on a parish church, partly because we want to encourage people to participate in their parish churches - either as well or instead. We try to support our diocese and deanery in the ways we can. I think, as part of the mixed economy of the C of E, cathedrals have an interesting and important place - particularly on and with the fuzzy edges - but absolutely no more important than the place of parish churches, and, agreed, with a lot of opportunities that parish churches don't have. Any concrete suggestions as to how to use those opportunities to benefit the wider C of E economy/ oikonomia, and particularly the parishes with which we might be seen as in competition, would be incredibly helpful.

Posted by Anonymous Clergy at Monday, 26 September 2016 at 9:42am BST

Turbulent Priest: "... Or is it simply that Cathedrals are promoting themselves as being similar to parishes? Or that they are providing something special that parishes might well emulate?"

Or even that they ARE parishes? I haven't done a count but I think that about half of CofE cathedrals are parish churches - the ones that before a fairly recent Cathedrals Measure were lead by a Provost rather than a Dean.

Posted by RPNewark at Monday, 26 September 2016 at 10:22am BST

Thank you, anonymous. Exactly my own anecdotal views...and it is good to see them articulated so clearly. The next step is to see whether more rigorous research bears them out (which I hope it would) in order to be a welcome antidote to the view often expressed that it's only big evangelical churches that grow....because actually there is a lot in your list that could also be emulated by parish churches.

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Monday, 26 September 2016 at 10:50pm BST

It amazes me how people on TA lose their critical faculties when we get to subjects like cathedrals. All those pompous processions, people desperate to get to the back to show how important they are, worship turned into performance, cathedral canons who have a 9-5 attitude to work, and a narrow or nil vision of what being the mother church of the diocese means. Thousands of pounds charged for school services.

OK, I'm being provocative, but come on everyone, where's your radical thinking gone....

Posted by AIC at Tuesday, 27 September 2016 at 8:48am BST

Anonymous clergy:

'potential to receive rather than participate in worship'

Um, in order to 'receive' worship, don't you have to be God?

'sense of cathedral as place where commitment is optional (unlike some local parish churches)'

Also unlike the teaching of Jesus.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 28 September 2016 at 1:43am BST

it is perfectly acceptable not to want to actively participate in singing etc. but listen to a Cathedral Choir instead.

And Jesus said nothing about how we have to express commitment. It does not have to be to church activities to be real. For some people, church is the place where they re-charge their batteries to then go and out and love and serve somewhere else.

Personally, I'm not a great fan of cathedral services. But I do see their attraction and their validity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 29 September 2016 at 10:09am BST


apologies if I was unclear - I was using the common opposition between "receive" and "participate". By receive, I mean being able to use the service as a time of reflection and renewal, rather than a time of activity and bustle.

As for commitment being optional being unlike the teaching of Jesus, you are, of course, quite right. Without wishing to begin an argument, and with the proviso that of course I think all Christians should be actively committed both within and outside their congregations, I do think there are many people who come to faith and to commitment slowly - and being able to dip in and out without making an initial commitment is important in that. There are also people who have been deeply hurt by other congregations and need a time/ place to step back from that before finding a new way of committing. There are also people whose life circumstances are such that the kind of commitment they would like to give to a parish church is not possible at that season.

Also, as I said, I didn't say that all of these were positive reasons - just the reasons that I see around me.

Posted by Anonymous Clergy at Monday, 3 October 2016 at 9:54am BST
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