So, this is Christmas?


The Church of England publishes statistics about the numbers of its faithful. These are particularly interesting in light of the recent news that the UK no-longer has a Christian majority.

The CofE's statistics are for 2019 - before COVID messed up everything - and I think offer a fascinating glimpse into its future.

The two figures which struck me were:

  • 89,000 baptisms during 2019
  • 114,000 funerals during 2019

Back in 2014, the numbers were:

  • 130,000 baptisms
  • 146,000 funerals

The good news is fewer funerals. The bad news is fewer baptisms. In the intervening 5 years, the Church went from losing 16,000 members per year to now losing 25,000 members per year.

Now, not everyone who enters the Church does so via baptism. And not all of those that do will become a worshipper. Similarly, not every CofE funeral is conducted on behalf of a worshipper, and not every worshipper will want a religious funeral. But those are the numbers we have to work with. So let's take them as gospel.

So how many people does the CofE count as worshippers? There are many ways to count that.

  • 690,000 - usual Sunday attendance
  • 1,100,000 - regular worshippers
  • 2,330,000 - attended churches at Christmas

How have those numbers changed over the last decade?

Measure of Church of England participationChange from
2009 to 2019
Correlation
coefficient
Adult average weekly+Child average Sunday attendance-17%0.93
Adult average weekly attendance-15%0.92
Adult average Sunday attendance-18%0.95
Child average Sunday attendance-30%0.96
All age average Sunday attendance-20%0.95
All age Usual Sunday attendance-16%0.99
Adult Usual Sunday attendance-14%0.99
Child Usual Sunday attendance-27%0.98
Easter attendance-17%0.94
Easter communicants-18%0.91
Christmas attendance+1%0.01
Christmas communicants-16%0.60
Baptisms and thanksgivings-37%0.90
Marriages and services of prayer & dedication-42%0.91
Funerals total-31%0.97
Funerals in church-18%0.91
Funerals in crematoria/cemeteries-45%0.98

I know many people will be wary of drawing a conclusion from two data points over ten years. Helpfully, the report contains data going back to the 1960s.

Graph showing all forms of worship steadily decreasing.

(NB Electoral Roll refers to the Church's list of congregants. Not those for civic elections.)

The 2021 Census says that 46% of people describe themselves as Christian. It doesn't break down into denomination. And, crucially, it doesn't attempt to answer whether someone is religious or simply a member of the culture. There are lots of people who haven't stepped foot in a church since their infant baptism who, nevertheless, might say they are Christian.

There are many ways to be a Christian. They don't all involve sitting on a pew. And there are a great many Churches outside of the CofE. And the religion of the state doesn't necessarily apply to all those within its borders. The report does point out that Christmas attendance is up - and there are lots of outreach projects which are doing well.

But...

What now?


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8 thoughts on “So, this is Christmas?”

  1. said on techhub.social:

    @Edent attendance in church, and being a Christian aren't the same thing though. I haven't attended church in.. 35 years? But I still consider myself a Christian. I just don't like being in church, seeing the hypocrisy of people sin for 6 days, and on the 7th day ask for forgiveness and all is well. Love thy neighbour 24/7 - it doesn't require a church for that.

    Reply | Reply to original comment on techhub.social
  2. said on mastodon.scot:

    @Edent On the positive side, many former churches have been converted into all sorts of cool uses. I've been indoor [rock] climbing, clubbinng, and been to art exhibitions in them.They often (not always) occupy sites of excellent accessibility having been the hubs for their community.Despite being an atheist for over 40 years, I still love a good church and graveyard. I don't want to see these fabulous locations (and architecture) lost to soulless* development.*oh the irony.

    Reply | Reply to original comment on mastodon.scot
  3. says:

    If you are a mindful, caring and thinking soul you probably have many friends who ... do not read the bible, have never read the bible, they never go to church, even at Christmas, don't live by acknowledged 'Christian' norms, but still believe their children should be baptised, and of course still tick Christian on the census box. They also are sure they are going to heaven. If you claim to be Christian (or any Religion) or none, you should live by those principles.

    Reply

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