Comments: Cathedral Statistics 2016

Is it just me, or did who ever wrote this press release used to work for Soviet era Pravda? All it needs is a spontaneous demonstration of joy from the workers in the Cathedral Gift Shop for the illusion to be complete.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Thursday, 9 November 2017 at 6:03pm GMT

Fr Andrew, most amusing. It is good to know that the cathedrals are such "amazing" places. I wonder what would be the likelihood of similar amazing things in parish churches if they were resourced even half as well as cathedrals. One of my three churches is at least as big as small cathedral (e.g. Birmingham, Derby). It is staffed by one third of a priest (I have two other churches). That’s it. No paid administrator, no paid PA, no paid musicians, no paid verger, no paid fabric manager, and a regular congregation of about 30 who give sacrificially and voluntarily of time, energy and money. The local community is not terribly fertile mission ground since it is increasingly Islamic. These figures show what can be done when resources are made available, so without further shilly-shallying let’s close at least half the parish churches in the land and plough even more funds into the cathedrals so that they can do even better. Finally, John Inge uses the word "worship" in the context of those attending Advent and Christmas events. That's worth a discussion in itself.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Thursday, 9 November 2017 at 9:09pm GMT

I am always left with the "half the story" impression, what about those cathedrals in financial crisis and at least three high profile deans being removed, not everything is awesome!

Posted by Paul at Thursday, 9 November 2017 at 10:12pm GMT

Paul and Fr Andrew - you've brought to light what was hidden. Dunce that I am—I once was blind but now I see that this story and those like it call to mind media reports from Pyongyang. Similarities don’t stop there, of course, for it's well known by North Korean cognoscenti that Kim Jong-il’s birth took place on a mountainside and was heralded by, inter alia, a bright star appearing in the sky. We have much to learn.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 10:54am GMT

I am sorry that the first reactions to these statistics have been the rather cliched and tedious 'sour grapes' accompanied by the unsubstantiated suggestions about funding for Cathedrals. They certainly cannot arise from any recent and sustained experience of cathedrals. As someone who worships in a cathedral, i offer the following observations.

First, relative to the size of their congregations and the impact they are making on their communities and regions, cathedrals are no better funded than parishes (the commissioners simply provide a Dean and two canons) and are struggling financially. Too many people want excellence on the cheap and that is one aspect of their ministry coming under severe pressure.

Second, cathedrals are obviously scratching where people are itching, in terms of the spacial experience, the quality of their liturgy and preaching, and their ability to offer an intelligent and humane account of the Christian faith to those beyond the boundaries of the church. You do not need increased funding to provide the latter, and it may be that most thinking people are simply not attracted by rip-roaring family services and messy church, and we are now reaping the harvest of the Church of England's unofficial policy of doing theological training on the cheap.

Third, and closely related, is that if the report about a funding crisis in theological education remains unaddressed, we are soon going to be in a situation where there might be plenty of clergy with business acumen to make cathedrals financially viable, but far fewer who have a well-rounded theological mind and imagination, and we may find that cathedrals can no longer offer the distinctive ministry that has proved so attractive to those who make up the 17% increase in regular Sunday attendance since 2006. Indeed, there are worrying signs that this is already happening - and in our historic cathedrals, too.

Posted by Peter Norris at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 11:19am GMT

Peter Norris And aren't you doing the opposite with your 'rather cliched and tedious' caricature of local church life and worship as all things cheap and superficial? Both need thoughtfully discussing on their own terms.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 2:55pm GMT

Strange that the press release mentions Fresh Expressions twice, but not Choral Evensong, which cathedrals have a bit of practice at. Christ Church, Oxford, can attract 150 to choral evensong on a Tuesday in January, Maybe it is just a way to avoid the entrance fee....

Posted by Iain McLean at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 3:10pm GMT

A fair headline would have been:
Weekly Cathedral Attendance Remains Steady at 37,000.

Posted by Paul Waddington at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 3:19pm GMT

Mr Norris, I don’t begrudge the cathedrals their worldly success. It’s important for the C of E to serve, as cathedrals undoubtedly do, the people who already have so much. Ministering to the middle classes is what the C of E is for, after all. I was brought up on Choral Evensong and I've been a singer and assisting organist in cathedrals and cathedral-esque establishments. I have a fair understanding of how they work.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 3:42pm GMT

Can I just make it clear that I wasn't criticising our cathedrals: great places and more power to their elbow. They are also, mostly, places where liturgy is taken seriously which can only be applauded.

What I was seriously squirming at was the relentlessly upbeat press releases that seem to issue constantly from whoever deals with the Church of England media office. It's just impossible to take them seriously, which is a shame as they might have something worthwhile to say. I can't imagine anyone in the media they are aimed at taking them seriously either, any more than they do when Ri Chun-Hee excitedly tells the world of North Korea's latest glories. Hopefully the new media person at Church House will set this right when she gets into the swing.

I guess it's part of the HTBization of the Church of England. Now all the press releases read like they've come straight from the vacuous pages of Alpha News.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 3:57pm GMT

"Average weekly attendances at services on a Sunday also increased to 18,700."

And there's the kicker. Out of a population of over 53 million, this is miniscule: you'd probably get more people cosplaying.

Cathedrals evidently get impressive figures for high days and holidays, but this isn't translating into long-term commitment. It's religious theater, razzle-dazzle to be enjoyed a few times a year, no questions asked, no obligations imposed.

And this is England's success story: no wonder the church is in terminal crisis.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 10 November 2017 at 5:26pm GMT

I'm sorry if I have rattled @David Runcorn. I was simply speaking of what I know - and I'm afraid that much that passes for 'worship' in C of E parishes I have experience of is, frankly, dire.

Posted by Peter Norris at Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 5:02pm GMT

'I'm afraid that much that passes for 'worship' in C of E parishes I have experience of is, frankly, dire.'

It would be interesting to get God's point of view on this. But since we can't, a second good test would be 'Are the worshippers going out and living lives of love and witness in their communities?'

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 11 November 2017 at 8:03pm GMT
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