Thinking Anglicans

Cathedral Statistics 2017

Updated Thursday to add some press reports

The Church of England has released its Cathedral Statistics for 2017 today, along with a lengthy press release, copied below. The full report can be downloaded here.

Press reports

Adam Becket Church Times Cathedral attendance rose by three per cent last Christmas
Mike Wright The Telegraph Christmas Cathedral congregation numbers swell thanks to spiritually inquisitive, festival-going millennials
Christian Today England’s cathedrals continue to enjoy a strong turnout for Christmas services

Press release

Record numbers attend cathedrals at Christmas

Attendance at Christmas services in England’s cathedrals has broken records for the second year running, statistics published today show.

A total of 135,000 people came to Church of England cathedrals to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 2017 – an increase of three per cent on the previous year, and the highest total since records began.

Attendances at Sunday worship in cathedrals throughout the year also continued to hold steady over a five-year period, while average weekday attendances continued their pattern of increase, with just over 18,000 attending in 2017, compared with 7,000 in 2000 when this data was first recorded. Over 10 years, the total number attending all regular services in cathedrals has increased by 10 per cent.

While year-on-year changes to Advent and Christmas attendance can be affected by the number of Sundays in Advent and the day on which Christmas falls, numbers attending cathedrals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have increased by 13 per cent over the past 10 years, evidencing sustained growth.

Meanwhile, more than 10 million people visited cathedrals (including Westminster Abbey) in 2017, with fewer paying for entry than in previous years.

Cathedrals also reported having around 1,000 more volunteers in 2017 compared with the previous year.

Life events including baptisms, memorial services, marriages and blessings of marriage all increased in numbers, with 70 more baptisms in 2017 than the previous year, an increase of nine per cent.

Elsewhere, more young people came through cathedrals’ doors for educational events, with 2017 seeing an increase of three per cent on the previous year with a total of 318,000 children and young people attending, compared with 309,000 in 2016.

Cathedrals continued to be centres of civic life, with 1.3 million people reported at 5,300 civic services and events. In 2017, 289,000 people attended 290 graduation ceremonies.

Around 900,000 people attended special one-off events at cathedrals in 2017, with 29 hosting Beacon Events at the conclusion of Thy Kingdom Come, a global week of prayer for Christians from all denominations.

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, The Church of England’s lead bishop for cathedrals said “Year after year our cathedrals continue to have enormous appeal to worshippers and visitors. They are awe-inspiring buildings, places to explore faith and encounter God – and centres of learning, outreach, service to the community and civic life. This year they will be at the heart of the nation’s commemorations for the centenary of the end of the First World War.”

“Christmas is a natural opportunity for people to re-connect with their church or cathedral, and the growth in numbers of those doing so over the past ten years is very encouraging. We hope that still more people will have the joy of rediscovering the Christmas story in a cathedral or church in 2018, and our campaign #FollowTheStar is all about helping them to do so. Everyone can be assured of a very warm welcome.”

The Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, Adrian Dorber, who is Dean of Lichfield said: “Cathedrals minister in a culture that is more and more diverse, spiritually attuned, but religiously unaffiliated. They offer a mixture of absolute reliability, being open every day, and missionary enterprise. We attract large numbers of committed and skilled volunteers and the public likes to visit not only at Christmas and for national commemorations but also for events, performances and exhibitions where they are free to think new thoughts, wonder, reflect and pray.

“Much of our outreach work through education and music is reaching bigger numbers of schools and students year on year and it’s good to be able to help a rising generation with their discovery of their talents and knowledge.

“Cathedrals aren’t complacent about what opportunities lie before them, but these statistics accurately portray where they are making an impact and what they are trying to do.”

The Third Church Estates Commissioner, Dr Eve Poole who leads the Church of England’s Cathedrals’ Support Group said: “The breadth of this data is testimony to the wonderful diversity of cathedral activity.

“Some visitors are drawn to their ephemeral music and liturgy, some to their majestic architecture, some to learn about our rich heritage; others to mark life events, to come together as a civic community, and to visit one of the many creative installations to which only these lofty spaces can do full justice.

“This report reminds us of the broad appeal of these special places at the heart of our cities, which ably demonstrate what the Church of England has to offer the nation.”

Growth in visitors, worshippers and community engagement

Ely Cathedral witnessed increased a 31 per cent increase in worshippers in advent between 2015 and 2017 following an increased focus and promotion of services and activities for children and families. This included a Christmas tree lights service and another service at the city’s Christmas Fair.

The Dean of Ely, Mark Bonney, said: “Christmas is a very special part of the year for Christians and we have made an extra effort to share what we do, especially via social media, encouraging sharing not just in the beautiful offerings from our choirs, but also as an invitation to share in worship together.

In 2016, Gloucester Cathedral created the new post of Community Engagement Manager as part of a project to grow the cathedral as a centre of spiritual, civic and heritage activity for a wider audience, connecting particularly with local residents, and addressing social issues.

In addition to several art exhibitions, including My Solitude, a photography exhibition by formerly homeless artist David Tovey which was visited by nearly 17,000 people during Lent.

Community Engagement Manager for Gloucester Cathedral, Helen Jeffery, said: “The cathedral actively seeks strong partners who are committed to addressing social and human issues.

“Accessible, inclusive and affordable public events are key to our community engagement programme and we are proud of the relationships we have built and continue to grow to ensure we can provide a meaningful place of welcome for all.”

More recently in 2018, Hereford Cathedral saw increased numbers of visitors during spring, during an installation of Poppies: Weeping Window, first displayed at the Tower of London in 2014.

The Dean of Hereford, Michael Tavinor, said: “The Poppies created an event of great significance to the cathedral and we were privileged to host it. The reactions of the many thousands, young and old, were as varied as the locations they travelled from, but a common experience seems to be one of remembrance, thanksgiving, regret and beauty. Our wonderful volunteers, who were present in all weathers, engaged in many deep and profound conversations with our visitors.”

“For us at the cathedral, the artwork appeared as an ‘extension’ of the building itself. It helped to bring so many elements of the Christian faith we experience inside the cathedral and demonstrated the power of one-off installations to engage both new and repeat visitors and worshippers alike.”

Also during the current year, Peterborough Cathedral similarly saw an influx of 58,000 visitors in the space of one month following the arrival of Tim Peake’s Soyuz space capsule for a three-month exhibition – a 600 per cent increase on the same period the previous year.

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Father David
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Father David

13% increase in the last decade. I think we are missing a trick or two here. To assist in halting the decline evident in the wider church – let’s create a hundred more cathedrals in this green and pleasant land.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The problem with these sorts of statistics is that in the absence of wider context they could mean almost anything. Is it because cathedrals are attracting people who previously went to parish churches? A small increase in the numbers in cathedrals would only be a fraction of the missing worshippers in parishes over the past decades. Is it because the bulge years for demographics 1958-1968 now don’t have children at home, but are still active and mobile, so can get out on a Sunday morning when a decade ago they couldn’t? That would be interesting, but a short-term gain, because… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

My very personal word association for styles of worship which are growing

Majesty
Sense of occasion
Presence
Praise
Large
Music
Impersonal

My very personal word association for styles of worship which are struggling

Contemplative
Repetitive
Personal / small
Liturgical
Mystic

Kate
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Kate

Following on from my previous comment, I wonder if churches could follow a trend in supermarkets and give everyone attending a token to put in one of (say) three jars as they leave. The jars could have words so people could put tokens in the one which most captured their thoughts. Each month we could have 3 different words. Over time, particularly for large churches, we could build up a word cloud for our worshippers which might help us to respond better to what people want. But one thing we do need to take on board – we can no… Read more »

David Rowett
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David Rowett

Is that ‘want’ as in ‘demand’ or ‘want’ as in ‘lack’? :-))

Richard Grand
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Richard Grand

It’s interesting that excellent music and liturgy in a beautiful space has the ability to attract people. This is counter to what we are often told about people needing intimacy and attention on a personal level, although we can, hopefully, assume that those who attend are welcomed and treated well. It’s good to know that the efforts made to preserve and further cathedral music are having an impact, especially when it was de rigeur for years to denigrate those things (and may still be for some.) Perhaps what people really want is a place where they can feel accepted without… Read more »

Anon
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Anon

I am not sure if excellent music, liturgy and a beautiful space is in-itself a ‘magic formula’ for growth to be applied to parishes. Having served in a parish that used a Cathedral-style model in an ordinary parish setting, it struggled to maintain numbers with a fairly marked decline over the past few years (approx. 35%). My impression is that people are attracted to Cathedral worship as visitors, pilgrims/tourists (especially if it avoids the entrance fee!) and regulars, who find it helpful to have a space without expectation. It’s possible to be anonymous, not offer any financial or practical support… Read more »

Anne Lee
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Anne Lee

I have two comments: 1. What is the increase in the population of England over the last few years? 2. How many Cathedral worshippers are tourists from overseas? In my local cathedral very large numbers of people in the congregation are overseas tourists.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Is there any breakdown in the figures between attendance at the Eucharist and those for Evensong? Anecdotally many people on the fringe of Christianity (even allegedly those right outside like Richard Dawkins) are attracted to the latter. On the other hand, with the downgrading in many parish churches of sacramental worship, many regular worshippers might be more attracted to the regularity and continuity of the Sunday Eucharist. Speaking totally for myself, I find Choral Evensong boring (I prefer a more monastic, contemplative style of office) but appreciate eucharistic liturgy done well. Somehow choral settings enhance the eucharist for me, while… Read more »

Will Richards
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Will Richards

There will always be a residual group of people who will carp about cathedrals, and whether music and architecture are valid ways of opening peoples lives to the dynamic of God. Unless you are a committed Calvinist (like the theologian Jeremy Begbie, who argues that, unless music is a vehicle for the explicit revelation of the word of God, it can never be a way to encounter the divine) you cannot ignore the fact that music, architectural space, well-ordered liturgy, intelligent preaching, theological rigour, and wider cultural engagement, remain a compelling draw for many people. Many of the people I… Read more »

Nicholas Henshall
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My first foray into TA – as Dean of the second smallest cathedral, just a couple of I hope helpful observations. As well as 5 years so far as a Dean I have spent 5 years as vicar of a large well-resourced church, 6 years as Canon precentor of the smallest cathedral (Derby) and 14 years as an inner-city parish priest in Newcastle. I understand something of the changed and contrasts of the last 30 years. I don’t want to comment on the thoughtful ideas already shared. For all its inadequacies I would suggest that the Anecdote to Evidence report… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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‘Many of the people I know who worship at Ely Cathedral, for example, do so because what passes for worship in their local parishes is so often dire, condescending or superficial.’ I’m a lifelong small church pastor, and I find that comment condescending in the extreme. Surely it’s God’s opinion we should be seeking, and we know from the scriptures that the worship God asks is worship in which people are truly and sincerely offering their hearts and lives to God. To describe someone’s worship as ‘dire’ because it doesn’t meet a perfectionistic standard most small churches would be hard… Read more »

Will Richards
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Will Richards

Quite a lot of conjecture, here, Tim, especially when I tell you that the quality of pastoral care in Ely Cathedral exceeds anything I have known in a local parish. This is where you have to stop relying on outdated and limited perceptions of English cathedrals from decades ago. By ‘dire’ worship I mean this: superficial engagement with scripture and poorly prepared sermons by clergy who believe anything will do; a sense of embarrassed diffidence when it comes to engaging with, and conveying a sense of, the transcendent ‘otherness’ of God; and poorly prepared music, where well-meaning youngsters were given… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Will, we’ve obviously both sparked something in each other! I’ve spent forty years ministering in small churches in the Canadian northwest. Two of my parishes were multi point and involved hours of driving (sixty miles from one end of the parish to the other). I was the only paid staff person. Volunteers worked hard but time was limited. To folks like these ‘anything will do’ was not a choice – it was a matter of survival. There were only so many hours in the day, you had to choose what you were going to focus on and what you were… Read more »

Will Richards
Guest
Will Richards

Thanks for sharing this, Tim, and giving a sense of where you’re coming from. Very helpful. But, surely, what you are offering, and what cathedrals offer, are completely different and necessarily complementary. Both are equally valid (especially in view of the care you and your colleagues are taking over worship and pastoral care). So why dismiss the way cathedrals are touching large numbers of people for whom they are clearly meeting a need that small churches do not? If only the care over worship you describe in your churches in Canada were more evident in local parishes in England, things… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Will, if I seemed dismissive to you, I have to say that it was entirely in reaction to this sentence from your first: ‘Many of the people I know who worship at Ely Cathedral, for example, do so because what passes for worship in their local parishes is so often dire, condescending or superficial.’

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Andrew Lightbown’s piece referenced in today’s ‘opinion’ is extraordinarily good on this issue:

https://theore0.wordpress.com/2018/10/25/speaking-of-cathedrals-mission-and-evangelism/

Kate
Guest
Kate

I wonder if, as a comparison, King’s College Cambridge have any statistics on worshippers attending Evensong.

Will Richards
Guest
Will Richards

Yes, Kate, as a regular at King’s (not sure if the Dean, Stephen Cherry, sees this website) I can tell you that on Saturdays and Sunday especially, the main chapel is completely full and there is considerable overflow in the antechapel. That’s a significant increase on the numbers of a decade ago. I don’t remember, for a long time, ever being at Evensong in King’s – even on a cold dark February Tuesday – in the past few years and thinking it was just choir, clergy and a few people in an otherwise empty chapel. I don’t have statistics, of… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Thanks Will

That suggests to me that a lot of the effect isn’t related to cathedrals as such but is replicable in other large churches and the focus for encouragement and support ought to be broadened from just cathedrals.

(I am separately delighted to hear that even mid-week Evensong is popular. Oddly, during my time in Cambridge I never worshipped in Kings. On Sundays I walked over to Selwyn and during the week I would go to our own chapel (Peterhouse).)