Record-breaking rise in church attendance

24 October 2018

Attendance at services in England’s cathedrals continues to break records, with Exeter’s midweek services leading the way

A total of 135,000 people came to Church of England cathedrals to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 2017 – an increase of three per cent on the previous year, and the highest total since records began.

In Exeter the attendance at Sunday worship followed with the national trend, but it was midweek attendance which saw a phenomenal increase of 653% over 5 years, with around 500 people now regularly attending midweek services, including choral Evensong.

The report showed increases in other areas of life too, with increases in the number of volunteers giving their time to projects, together with education activities and life events such as baptisms and weddings.

The Dean of Exeter, the Very Revd Jonathan Greener, said the rise was due to the fact the Cathedral offered a place of sanctuary and stillness which was open to everyone, every day.

“The statistics reflect what we see on the ground in Exeter Cathedral, day in, day out. One of the strengths of all cathedrals is that we are open each day, all year round. So people can come in for space and silence at a time that suits them, and weekday worship attracts many people for whom Sunday is now less convenient. Daily choral Evensong is a treasured time for busy people, which offers superb music and singing and a time to reflect on a busy day. It is no surprise that this treasure is being discovered by more and more people.

“In Exeter, we are committed to encouraging everyone in Devon to come in and feel part of what is their Cathedral. We are working hard to offer activities for families and schools throughout the year and we also offer a wide variety of non-traditional concerts and other events, such as the IKEA film showings which were so popular earlier this year. “The statistics show that today, as for the last 900 years, Exeter Cathedral is relevant and important to local people and plays an important role in the life of the city and the county.”

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, The Church of England’s lead bishop for cathedrals said “Year after year our cathedrals continue to have enormous appeal to worshippers and visitors. They are awe-inspiring buildings, places to explore faith and encounter God – and centres of learning, outreach, service to the community and civic life. This year they will be at the heart of the nation’s commemorations for the centenary of the end of the First World War.

“Christmas is a natural opportunity for people to re-connect with their church or cathedral, and the growth in numbers of those doing so over the past ten years is very encouraging. We hope that still more people will have the joy of rediscovering the Christmas story in a cathedral or church in 2018, and our campaign #FollowTheStar is all about helping them to do so. Everyone can be assured of a very warm welcome.”

The Third Church Estates Commissioner, Dr Eve Poole who leads the Church of England’s Cathedrals’ Support Group said: “The breadth of this data is testimony to the wonderful diversity of cathedral activity. Some visitors are drawn to their ephemeral music and liturgy, some to their majestic architecture, some to learn about our rich heritage; others to mark life events, to come together as a civic community, and to visit one of the many creative installations to which only these lofty spaces can do full justice.

“This report reminds us of the broad appeal of these special places at the heart of our cities, which ably demonstrate what the Church of England has to offer the nation.”

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