CofE annual statistics 2011 - good news and bad
The Church of England today released its Annual Statistics for 2011 revealing a strong growing trend for Christmas attendance, an increase in child and adult baptisms and a growing stability in weekly service attendance.
Christmas 2011 drew 14.5% more (yes, more) worshipers to Church of England services than attended in 2010, reaching a total of 2,618,030. Whilst one of the factors for such a high annual increase include the poor weather on Christmas Day in 2010, initial returns from 2012 suggest a further increase in Christmas attendance on these high 2011 figures revealing a growing trend for church going at Christmas.
So, Christmas Christians are on the up.
And the number of christenings increased by 4.3%, which was accompanied by a rise of just over 5% in adult baptisms with a combined total of 139,751 baptisms – meaning that the Church of England conducted an average of over 2,600 baptisms each week during 2011. Thanksgivings for the birth of a child also rose - an 11.9% increase, taking numbers to 6,582.
So, baby liturgies are more in demand.
Average weekly attendance nationally fell by less than half of one per cent (0.3%) to 1,091,484 - representing a relative stabilising of average weekly attendance figures. Almost half of the Church of England’s regional areas saw growth (yes, growth) in Church attendance, with 20 out of 44 dioceses showing increases. Nationally there was a 1.2% increase in children and young people attending to 216,928.
So the National Secularists and British Humanists can stick that in their pipes and smoke it.
Weddings saw a slight decrease of 3.6% in 2011, to 51,880, whilst the number of wedding blessings (Services of Prayer and Thanksgiving following a civil ceremony) was up by 4.5%. The wedding figures confirm the trend of the past decade where the Church of England married an average of 1,000 couples every week.
Church of England clergy and lay ministers conducted 162,526 funerals in 2011, a fall of 2.8% on the previous year, reflecting figures from the Office for National Statistics which showed a fall of 1.8% in deaths in England and Wales in 2011. On these figures the Church of England conducted an average of over 3,000 funerals every week in 2011 - over 400 every day.
Welcoming the publication of the statistics, the Rt Rev'd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: “These figures are a welcome reminder of the work and service undertaken by the Church of England annually. 1,000 couples married, 2,600 baptisms celebrated and over 3,000 funerals conducted every week of the year.
“The attendance figures are heartening, especially the very strong growth in Christmas day attendance. The encouraging news of further growth to come even on these high figures is very welcome and points to a growing trends. Also welcome is the stabilising of the numbers of those who attend church services on a weekly basis. With almost half of our dioceses showing growth, there is a quiet confidence underlying these figures.
"The growth of the numbers of children and young people attending is an encouragement and reflects the investment made by churches across in the country on youth and children's workers to serve not only the church but the whole parish."
“The increase in the number of adults being baptised and those families bringing their children to be Christened is also good news showing growth in the numbers of those both coming to faith and reflects the wide nature of the ministry offered by the Church - for all of life from the cradle to the grave."
The bad news?
Sunday attendance has declined over the decade, and this is particularly noticeable with child attendance:
A church that is not engaged creatively in mission is not fulfilling its primary objective - that of preaching the gospel to make believers to make disciples. If Jesus had chosen to irrupt into the 21st century instead of 0BC, he'd doubtless be blogging and tweeting. At least about the meaning of the Resurrection, for Easter attendance at church has seen a general decline, particularly in the latter part of the century:
And the proportion of babies being baptised into the Church of England has fallen significantly from a high of 70% in 1930 to just 12% in 2011:
It's easy to whinge about this and blame the bishops, or to criticise the Archbishop of Canterbury (yes, even the new one) for his woeful leadership and lamentable witness.
But when did you last lead someone to Christ?