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Weekly Church of England attendance drops below one million

Tue 12 Jan 2016
By Marcus Jones

The number of people attending Church of England (CofE) services each week has fallen below one million.

Church statistics for 2014 show 980,000 attend each week - down from 1,004,300 in 2013.

The fall is part of a steady decline of just over 1% a year, with a 12% decrease over the past decade.

Speaking in response to the findings, the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James, said: "The 2014 figures are not in any way a surprise. Whilst the recent trend of the past decade continues, it has been anticipated and is being acted on radically.

"As part of a prayerful and considered response to these trends the Church is embarking upon the biggest renewal and reform process in over 150 years focusing our resources on prayer, evangelism, discipleship, vocations, leadership and training.

"We do not expect that trend to change imminently or immediately over the next few years due to demographics. We lose approximately 1% of our churchgoers to death each year. Given the age profile of the CofE, the next few years will continue to have downward pressure as people die or become housebound and unable to attend church.

"As a Church we are unashamedly committed to following the teachings of Jesus Christ in our worship of God, discipleship and service to the poor and the marginalised. Our confidence, resilience and service is rooted in Jesus."

The stats also showed 2.4 million attended CofE services at Christmas in 2014 and 1.3 million people attended a service at Easter.

The Church carried out just under 1,000 weddings, 2,000 baptisms, and almost 3,000 funerals every week of the year.

Gerry Stacey, a statistician from the charity Christian Research, told Premier's News Hour: "It's forgotten it's roots. One of the strengths of the Anglican Church particularly is the old parish system. It had a church in every community. It's overemphasised its activities and its interests in the big city areas.

"Churches have almost gotten besotted with looking after their buildings rather than looking after their congregations. If you go to the average rural Anglican church... the buildings generally are entirely unsuitable for young people and what they want to do.

"All the questions young people ask are not being answered in the average sermon. Young people today have questions about life in general, about morals, about ethics... sexuality. It's a communication problem.

"I think the Church has got to go to the young people."

Listen to Premier's Antony Bushfield speaking to Gerry Stacey:

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