Research shows small congregations are key to Episcopal Church's growth

Worship attendance in the Episcopal Church increased by nearly 17,000 from 1995 to 2000 and small congregations account for much of this, said a new study by the denomination's research director, C. Kirk Hadaway.

More Episcopal congregations are losing attendance than gaining, but increases in "a vital minority" resulted in overall growth, Hadaway said. That gain contrasts with decreases in participation and membership in most "mainline" or liberal Protestant denominations.

Hadaway said the largest congregations aided Episcopal gains but not as much as those with average Sunday attendance of 100 or fewer. "Smaller congregations are the major source of growth," he said. On the other hand, smaller parishes are also more likely to decline or disband.

The typical Episcopal congregation has an average Sunday attendance of 80. Among the 7,364 Episcopal congregations, 33 reported attendance of more than 800.

Hadaway said "misinformation" had denigrated smaller congregations and over-emphasized the contribution of larger ones.