6. Church finds its flock of 330,000 lost sheep by Joanna Bale
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Wed Feb 6 01:20:36 EST 2002
Church finds its flock of 330,000 lost sheep
BY JOANNA BALE
The London Times
THE Church of England is more popular than it thought. A new method of
counting has found an extra 330,000 worshippers. The new total of 1.3
million people attending church each week, counted in 2000, is thought
to be more accurate than 1999's figure of 970,000.
The Rev Lynda Barley, the Church of England's head of research and
statistics, said: "This has obviously gone down very well. The figures
will form part of a new benchmark against which the Church can, in
future, measure itself."
The new method was introduced after the number of worshippers fell
below a million for the first time in 1999. Clergy were asked to keep a
headcount of people of all ages attending church services over a four-
week period in October. Under the old approach, clergy were asked to
estimate their average Sunday congregations.
"The old method was very woolly," Ms Barley said. "We asked parishes to
state their usual Sunday attendance over a year. Weekday services got
The new statistics also record total attendance figures for Christmas
(2.85 million) and Easter (1.63 million) for the first time. These show
significant increases because previous figures recorded only those
taking Communion. Although about 1.2 million people took Communion at
Easter 2000, the actual attendance was 40 per cent higher. On Christmas
Day and Christmas Eve 2000, almost 2.9 million people attended
services, more than double the 1.4 million who took Communion. Children
under 16 were also under-represented with the old method. Average
weekly attendance in 2000 was approximately 243,000, compared with the
1999 estimate of 170,000.
The new method of counting provides for the first time an accurate
picture of the numbers of baptisms, weddings, funerals, marriage
blessings and thanksgivings for the birth of a child administered by
clergy. On average, parish clergy undertake these special services once
a week; half of them are funerals.
Infant baptisms continued to fall (from 125,600 in 1999 to 114,200),
but an additional 5,600 infant thanksgivings were recorded for the
first time. These are less formal services to mark a birth; they may be
an alternative to a baptism or a precursor to one.
The new figures put average Sunday attendance at 1.06 million
worshippers, compared with the usual Sunday attendance in 1999 of
970,000. Counting congregations at services during the week boosted the
average weekly attendance to 1.3 million. Those who attended Sunday and
weekday services were not counted twice.
The Archdeacon of the Navy called on his counterparts yesterday in
Armed Services across the world to form new alliances in the aftermath
of September 11.
The Ven Simon Golding described religious fundamentalism, such as
within the al-Qaeda terror network, as a challenge to all the world's
faith groups and a threat to "international co-operation and peaceful
He was speaking on the first day of a four-day conference of 95
military chaplains from 31 countries at the RAF Museum in Cosford,
Shropshire. Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim and
Buddhist representatives are attending the annual event.
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