New survey shows rise in Church of England attendance

 New figures out this week show a sizable increase in the number of people attending Anglican church services in the UK. The first set of figures to come out of a new, more rigorous data collecting system, introduced in 2000, indicate that the Church has been under-counting its worshippers a statement from Church House says. As these are the first year's results, there are no previous statistics with which direct comparison can be made; but the figures will form part of a new benchmark which will be used in future. Average weekly attendance and average Sunday attendance are being seen as more accurate methods of counting churchgoers over a four week period, usually during October. The new statistics include total attendance for Christmas (2.85 million) and Easter (1.63 million) for the first time. They also provide an accurate picture of the occasional offices administered by clergy that has not been available before. These include not only baptisms and weddings but also funerals, marriage blessings and thanksgivings for the birth of a child. The figures put average Sunday attendance at 1.06 million worshippers. This compares with the old measure of usual Sunday attendance in 1999 of 0.97 million. Average weekly attendance figures of approximately 1.3 million, suggest the old figures undercounted the numbers in church each week by almost a third. They also highlight a distinct shift in patterns of attendance. Children and young people were also under-represented by the old statistics. Average attendance each week for children and young people in 2000 was approximately 243,000, compared with 170,000 in 1999. Easter and Christmas attendance levels show significant increases on the traditionally recorded communicant levels. While approximately 1.2 million people took communion at church and cathedral services at Easter 2000, actual attendance was 40% greater, at more than 1.6 million. On Christmas Day and Christmas Eve 2000, almost 2.9 million people attended church and cathedral services; more than double the 1.4 million who took communion.

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