Thinking Anglicans

Cathedral Statistics 2016

The Church of England has released its Cathedral Statistics 2016 along with a press release, copied below. Statistics for previous years are available here.

Cathedrals attract record numbers at Christmas
09 November 2017

Christmas attendance at services in cathedrals last year reached its highest figure since records began, statistics published today show. A one year rise of 5%, meant that 131,000 people came to cathedrals to worship last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Increased attendances were also recorded at services in Advent with 635,000 coming to worship during the busy pre-Christmas build-up. Average weekly attendances at services on a Sunday also increased to 18,700.

Meanwhile, over 10 million people visited cathedrals and Westminster Abbey with half donating or paying for entry.

The Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, and lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, said: “Behind these figures lie stories of worship, learning, exploring faith and spirituality and encountering God at times of joy and despair.

“Through new forms of worship, bringing people of all faiths and none together, and serving the young and old alike, these amazing places continue to be at the heart of national life.”

Life events including baptisms, memorial services, marriages and blessings of marriage all remained steady in numbers with some, including baptism, seeing modest increases.

Cathedrals continued to be centres of civic life, with 1.2 million people reported at 6,000 civic services and events. In 2016, 295,000 people attended 280 graduation ceremonies.

Becky Clark, Director of Churches and Cathedrals, said: “These statistics show the enduring appeal of cathedrals as places of worship, pilgrimage, and tourism.

“This is testament to the hard work clergy, staff and volunteers put into making them welcoming and inspiring places.

“The last few years have been particularly busy, with substantial building and repair programmes at many cathedrals, ensuring these beautiful, complex historic buildings can continue to be at the heart of their communities.”

Cathedrals are holding increasingly diverse services to reach out to people.

In 2016 there were 16,500 Fresh Expression services, a 12% increase since 2013.

Over half a million people came to regular services conducted at least once a month, half of which were school services.

Some 310,000 young people also attended cathedrals through special educational visits, a rise of 10% since 2006.

Cathedral clergy and staff across the country participated in 350 formal inter-faith forums and events.

Notes to Editors

The Cathedral Statistics 2016 report can be found here.

Fresh Expressions are new church communities and congregations that practice church in new ways to reach new people.


  • Fr Andrew says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Paul says:

    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!

  • 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.

  • Peter Norris says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Iain McLean says:

    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….

  • Paul Waddington says:

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

  • 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.

  • Fr Andrew says:

    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.

  • James Byron says:

    “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.

  • Peter Norris says:

    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.

  • ‘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?’

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