Thinking Anglicans

Statistics for Mission 2020

The Church of England has published its Statistics for Mission 2020 report today. The accompanying press release is copied below. Reports for previous years can be found here under the heading Church attendance statistics.

Statistics for Mission 2020
08/12/2021

The Church of England’s Statistics for Mission 2020 report has been published.

Figures published recently show that more than 9,000 churches (eight in 10 parishes) offered ‘Church at Home’ worship, such as online or dial-in services, during the March-July 2020 lockdown.

The full report also details in-person attendance figures for services which were, as expected, significantly lower than usual, amid legal restrictions on numbers because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the figures are based on an annual snapshot taken in October, which fell just before the second full national lockdown in England, when adult average weekly attendance was 57 per cent lower than 2019.

Despite the restrictions, the figures were still collected by the Church of England Research and Statistics Unit to record and recognise those things that churches were able to do in such difficult circumstances, understand the impact of the pandemic on church life and give context to future figures.

A spokesperson for the Church of England said: “The 2020 Statistics for Mission figures are very much in line with expectations and really underline the scale of the challenge churches faced in the first year of the pandemic.

“The main figures represent a snapshot in time in October last year, as the second wave of Covid-19 gathered momentum, while many churches in England were still closed for public worship, and all were under a legal requirement to limit numbers.

“The Advent and Christmas figures show this even more starkly – given the restrictions we all remember being introduced just a few days before Christmas last year.

“So they bear tribute to the resilience of local churches in the face of real challenges to which they responded in remarkable ways.

“We know that eight in 10 parishes offered ‘Church at Home’ online, via email, post and telephone during the first lockdown, helping sustain parish life when it was so dearly needed and also bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to some people for the first time.”

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Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
8 months ago

I am curious that the data for London in Table 3 show more benefices (412) than parishes (402). Does anyone know the reason for this – is it perhaps the number of Guild Churches?

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
Reply to  Mark Bennet
8 months ago

Probably. Because we have very few multi-parish benefices in London, the figures are always going to be pretty close. Indeed, we tend to talk of parishes not benefices in the everyday, only using “benefice” language when it comes to appointments. But the anomaly you point to can I think only be attributed to the existence of 16 Guild Churches.

Michael H.
Michael H.
8 months ago

The drop is catastrophic according to every measure. Christmas attendances are appalling, down 79%, as that is a time of year when occasional or annual worshippers turn out. Will they return? Not helped by Archbishop Welby telling people not to attend church which I predict he will repeat this year. As I have said ad nauseam, stick a KEEP OUT notice on the church door, deny communion to laity while showing off vicarage communion on Facebook, and you get what you wish for. Resentment and a decision never to return. I’m still looking for another denomination to join. Financial stats… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Michael H.
8 months ago

In much of the country worship provision has declined significantly. 8 AM communions and, to a lesser extent, evening services have become markedly scarcer than before; indeed, in the relatively few places where it now survives, the 8 AM communion is now often a 9 AM communion. Many multi-parish benefices are down to one service per benefice per week (recent legislation has assisted in this regard). Does attendance decline because provision falls, or does provision fall because attendance declines? I suspect both factors operate in symbiosis (not least because in a multi-parish benefice parishioners will often stay at home if… Read more »

Peter Debenham
Peter Debenham
Reply to  Froghole
8 months ago

Does the removal of the 8am communion cause attendance decline? I can state an uncategorical yes for at least one person; myself.

Asking people to book in advance for Christmas services will not exactly do marvels for “Christmas only” attendees either.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Peter Debenham
8 months ago

The demise of the 8 o’clock usually but not always means the loss of a BCP service too. As I recovered from a mental breakdown 8am BCP was not only all I could cope with, but helped with my recovery. The words were a comfort as I knew that they had sustained English Anglicans for 450 years. Indifferent to speaking, I found myself whispering the comfortable words, along with the priest taking the service. When I was an ordinand I remembered the wife of the Bishop of Hereford, Meriel Oliver, telling us how important the BCP was to the elderly… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

There is a need for joyous worship but there is an equally strong need for a service which is inherently peaceful. The 8am services have fulfilled that need for many of us at various times and I share your sadness that they are waning.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Kate
8 months ago

I have to confess that our 8am services are at 8.30am, but on Sunday I hope to preside at an 8.30am BCP service, as I do regularly in these parishes (followed by services at other churches at 9.30 am, 11am and a Christingle at 3pm, a typically very varied Sunday). It is fascinating to see occasionally new people engage with BCP, though I have to confess it took me about 15 years to get into the Prayer Book. You need to put commitment into it, and then you will be rewarded, I reckon.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Froghole
8 months ago

I should add that some of the reports I have read over the last 24 hours are projecting a million cases a day, rather than a million by Christmas or month end. I am not certain of the veracity of those claims. Therefore the Church probably needs to be giving active consideration to either suspending services altogether (I know that this is happening in some benefices) or having services outside in churchyards (the Eyam/Mompesson/Stanley model of 1666). I have attended a number of churchyard services over the last 15 months, and there were some benefices where that is exactly what… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Froghole
8 months ago

The Alford group has been unmanageable since my grandpa was vicar (and probably before) and pelted round the group doing three services before lunch every Sunday. There is no question that the ratio of churches to population (never mind the electoral role or ASA) in the benefice is too high. The question is what you do about it and how. There are simply too many old, lovely buildings for each one to be the recipient of heritage funding in the absence of a worshipping community large enough to support them.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Jo B
8 months ago

This is true, but there has been a drastic rationalisation already. It is also true of most of the rest of the country. If anything, the density of churches in South Lindsey is no longer as drastic as it was, and now falls some way short of the densities to be found in the Blackmore Vale, the environs of Ipswich and Norwich or parts of north and east Kent, which are often also profoundly rural and thinly populated. Thanks over the last 53 years to: (i) numerous demolitions (Aby, Asgarby by Spilsby, Authorpe, Cawkwell, Gayton le Marsh, Little Carlton, Moorby,… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Froghole
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Jo B
8 months ago

I should add that Covenham St Bartholomew, North Ormsby and Waithe lie just outside South Lindsey, but they are close to other recent closures, such as Beelsby (monument use) and Brigsley (no closure scheme has yet been passed, and its future is to be determined).

Father David
Father David
8 months ago

It is often said tha the Forsythe Sage on TV killed off Evensong. It now looks like Covid has similarly contributed to the demise of 8 o’clock Prayer Book Commuion.

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Father David
8 months ago

It isn’t covid that has contributed to the demise. Rather, it’s the appalling failures of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow bishops, beginning with the edict (later casuistically renamed ‘guidance’) forbidding clergy from entering their own churches. In the latest guidance from on high is the granting of permission for clergy to opt out of celebrating communion. As Froghole noted above, attendance declines when provision declines as people don’t want to travel to another church miles away. Staying at home becomes habit forming.

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Father David
8 months ago

Certainly our pre-Covid 8am congregation of around 25 has reduced to just into double figures.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
8 months ago

Reading these figures, and the discussion below, I was reminded of a very wise article in The Tablet Magazine of 31 July 21 by Liz Murphy. Sr Murphy is an Irish religious community member, who (as an academic and psychotherapist) has spent decades working on how to manage the numerical decline in Irish religious life. From 30,000 members in 1965, there are now roughly 6,000 religious, with 90% over 70 years old. The question Liz asks is how do we manage this? Do we deny it and fight it? Or do we accept that this phase of the Church’s life… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Simon Dawson
8 months ago

Thank you for sharing this, which is very interesting. I’m struck by the fact that Sr Murphy is, amongst other things, a psychotherapist. I do wonder what the psychological and spiritual impact on clergy and lay leaders might be when they see decline all around them whilst being endlessly told that they must plan for growth.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
8 months ago

You and I share the same thoughts, Fr Dexter, which is why I described Sr Murphy as wise. The word compassionate also springs to mind.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
8 months ago

CofE Stats for Mission 2020 I wonder why these Stats are collected, other than perhaps for the use of PhD/ D Phil/ Theological students of the decline/ fall/ resurrection of the CofE. It’s good to be reminded for posterity of the presence and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including that ‘the majority of churches offered service online …’ (p3). The ‘Worshipping Community’ … ‘fell slightly …’ (p3). I comment on this. The 4th of 5 bullet points in Background is an appropriate caution that ‘Church at Home “attendance” figures … are collected in very different ways in different churches’ so… Read more »

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  God 'elp us all
8 months ago

God ‘elp us all – I think that’s a very good analysis. The Stats for 2021 will also be rather skewed because of widespread church closures between January and March. Also today there are strong hints from Michael Gove that restrictions are slowly coming back so by the end of December/early January public worship will likely be suspended again, rubber stamped by bishops, no time limit. Unfortunately it has become very easy to cancel public worship with little thought of damage done to morale. As Froghole noted, online provision has reduced considerably. Will it be revived when churches close again?… Read more »

Fr Frank Nichols
Fr Frank Nichols
8 months ago

As I edge this week toward giving thanks for the great gift of Holy Orders given to me 53 years ago, I struggle with the repetition of the usual discussion of the call of priests and people during this pandemic. I had the great privilege all those years ago of being a Student Associate of the Society of the Sacred Mission at Kelham. In the Great Chapel at Kelham I learnt the centrality of the priestly call to be before God with his people in his heart. At Morning and Evening Prayer, at the daily Eucharist and meditation before breakfast,… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Fr Frank Nichols
8 months ago

Thank you, Father Frank. A clarion call for clergy and laity alike. How depressing (and, dare I add, self-centred) are so many current comments on TA.

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
8 months ago

Self-centred! Surely there is room here for individuals to describe their negative experience of church closure, in the context of the drastic fall in church attendance. Of course it’s depressing because the Church could have done things differently and the outcome would have been different. There is a wide range of views on TA from those who are content with Facebook communion to those who think it’s anathema; those content with communion in one kind, those strongly opposed. Why should those on one extreme of the argument be dismissed as self-centred because they object to being locked out or denied… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Michael H.
8 months ago

I wasn’t referring to that specific issue. I’m aware of your personal situation, having read all of your comments. I’m surprised you aren’t agreeing that Father Frank has made a clarion call to which, if your own incumbent had responded in kind, you would not be feeling so dissatisfied with the C of E. If you think carefully about what I wrote, you will see that It cannot be applied to your stance.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
8 months ago

The Book of Lamentations is particularly apposite Rowland as we observe the calamitous decline of the church. As Fr Frank intimates, with the Daily Office and the sacraments so downgraded nowadays, there is much for us to lament. I understand that a number of bishops have given their clergy a dispensation from saying Mass on S. Stephen’s day this year. Matters have become slapdash and slipshod and the church is very sadly reaping what it has sown.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

How apposite that the psalm appointed for evening prayer today was the 94th: Deus ultionum!

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  αnδrεw
8 months ago
αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
8 months ago

Now there’s a blast from the past! Thank you, Stanley: I so enjoyed that rendition. A true heir to Darke indeed!

Froghole
Froghole
8 months ago

“More than 9,000 churches (78%) offered ‘Church at Home’ online, via email, post and telephone during the March to July 2020 lockdown when collective worship was suspended because of the coronavirus restrictions.” This doesn’t seem right. What I think it ought to say is that benefices covering 9,000 churches offered some form of alternative worship provision. What has happened in many/most places is that a multi-parish benefice will have offered one or more online services or, less frequently, emailed or postal worship. The statement above suggests (to me) that 9,000 churches have been equally active; they may have been active in various… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Froghole
8 months ago

I should mention that it is not PHE, but the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine which is projecting a toll of 75,000 by April. The UK has had approximately 145,000 covid deaths since the onset of the pandemic (plus the casualties from those who have fatally delayed diagnoses for other conditions). During the last war the UK lost 384,000 soldiers and 70,000 civilians after nearly 6 years (just over 56 months). 21 months into the pandemic it is evident that it has had the impact of a major war, not only in terms of blood, but also of… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Froghole
8 months ago

Compulsory vaccination is indeed the only reasonable course of action given that “protection” of the NHS is regarded as paramount. I wonder how much opposition there was to polio or TB vaccines – I was alive then but too young to have known about dissent. The other reasonable option scientifically is to abolish all rules and let the virus do what viruses do naturally. Yes, a lot of us will die, but we’ll all die anyway. One sometimes hears it said that viruses are not part of God’s creation. This is patently absurd. We have viruses living in us and… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
8 months ago

I’m mystified by the figure for the number of funerals given for 2020, which appears to be just 96% of the number for 2019. My experience of 2020 was of a significant increase in funeral ministry, and I know that I was not alone in that amongst clergy colleagues. I suspect that there is some under-reporting here, or at least I hope there is: I would be very worried if, in the circumstances of last year, Church of England clergy conducted fewer funerals than previously.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
8 months ago

We conduct a large number of funerals in a normal year typically over 60. We had fewer last year, because during early lockdown more people chose different options – including having funerals without any celebrant – the fact that people could not gather meant that people made other plans. This year our numbers are normal and we have held some memorial services, which we offered widely.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Mark Bennet
8 months ago

There are lots of advertisements on the television for direct cremation with no service or ceremony (not with the coffin present anyway) I understand the ashes arrive by Royal Mail. Perhaps people are increasingly choosing this economical option.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

Not just for economy- though that is a factor. What do we know, tending to be more in touch with folk who do want ‘the church’ involved (or more that ‘that’s what they would have wanted’). Folk are much more likely to speak of a loved one ‘passing’ than ‘promoted to glory’. Covid and the related and necessary messages have not helped- it took first the more vulnerable infirm and elderly, maybe hastening their demise. With family and friends encouraged/ required to stay away/ don’t touch/ etc more ‘distance’ has been put into death, dying, grieving, and celebrating. Ads prey… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

This may be a result of the limitation to 30 mourners which was imposed. Rather than offend some by exclude them, have a basic funeral and a memorial event when restrictions are lifted.

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Simon Bravery
8 months ago

The limitation to 30 mourners was only in place after several months of restrictions. In April 2020 a friend was widowed. The vicar said, no funeral in church, must be at the crem and only two allowed to attend. That was interpreted as comprising the vicar and one funeral director. Very slowly over months the attendance figure grudgingly went up to ten. Funeral ‘visits’ comprised a five minute phone call. That is the level of contempt suffered by the bereaved for nearly two years and counting. It’s no surprise direct cremation has become more common. Another self inflicted lost opportunity… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Michael H.
8 months ago

Thank you for clarifying the position. The figure of a maximum of thirty mourners sticks in my mind because I have only attended one funeral since the pandemic began. That took place on 15 July this year. The Vicar stipulated that a maximum of thirty would be allowed in the church. This figure included him and the two people operating the livestreaming equipment. That left a maximum of twenty seven mourners. Others watched the service via livestream. No hymns were sung but we listened to recorded hymns. I spoke to another Vicar in the summer of 2020. He told me… Read more »

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Simon Bravery
8 months ago

I find it so sad that the C of E is losing the ‘funeral business’ not in terms of loss of fees but of the loss of opportunity to show non-church-goers the gospel of hope and the love of God. On 6th Dec, I attended in my church the funeral of a member of the congregation. Well over 100 were present and it was a great thanksgiving. 3 hours later, I officiated as an authorised layperson at a funeral at the local crematorium. I reckon there were well over 100 there also, the vast majority I’m sure with no connection… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  John Wallace
8 months ago

Yes, every funeral is an opportunity to share something of the hope that is in us, which is why I am concerned that in a year with a high number of excess deaths the number of C of E funerals appears to have decreased. For most of last year and much of this year my pastoral conversations have had to be over the phone or by e-mail, which is not my preferred way of doing these things, but it can be a way of offering valued support to people.

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