Sunday attendance figures down, Church of England reveals

London, UK - REGULAR SUNDAY congregation numbers are down but are increasing at Christmas and Easter, the latest statistics from the Church of England reveal.

The publication of the 2006 figures shows a worrying trend that less and less people are regularly committing to a church.

However, 2006 had the highest number of people attending Christmas services since 2000, with 2,994,100 attending in 2006.

This is an increase of seven per cent from 2005, while attendance at Easter also rose by five per cent.

In addition, the number taking Communion increased by four per cent to 1,258,300 while numbers at Easter services rose by five per cent from 1,417,600 in 2005 to 1,484,700 in 2006.

But regular Sunday, weekly and monthly attendance has dropped by one per cent. This trend was observable in the 2005 statistics, when the Church of England hemorrhaged 23,000 regular Sunday attendees.

However 2006’s results are not quite as severe with only 9,000 regular worshippers leaving the church.

The numbers of children and young people attending monthly services is encouraging, with the latest provisional statistics showing 442,000 under-16s attending services at some time in the month.

This is an increase of 26,000 since records of such figures were first collated.

Published at the same time, the latest results from the Opinion Research Business found that 50 per cent of respondents in England affiliated themselves to The Church of England when asked what religion they belonged to.

In addition 69 per cent sent said that they belonged to the Christian faith while only six per cent said they belonged to another faith.

In the same research 52 per cent said they had attended church for reasons other than weddings, funerals and baptisms, while 23 per cent said they attended religious services at least once a month.

Some 85 per cent said that they had been to church to attend a service, a social event or simply just to find a quiet space.

This compared to just 15 per cent who said they had not attended a church or place of worship in the last year.

Initiatives to stop the continual loss of regular Sunday worshippers are in place and some have proved effective.

Back to Church Sunday, for example, proved successful this year when churches in 20 dioceses asked 20,000 people back to church on one day.

This year even more are hoped to partake in the event which was first tested in the diocese of Manchester with encouraging results.

However, some feel that the loss of many regular Church of England worshippers is owing to the dramatic modernization of church services.

In last week’s edition of The Church of England Newspaper Canon Leslie Francis -- co author of Gone for Good? -- said that modern church services had alienated more churchgoers than won them.

“Many who do venture back do not recognize what they are coming back to because the very landmarks they once knew are not there any more,” he said.