Number at church recovers to

The Times (England), Dec. 17, 2002
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

The number of people attending Church of England services on Sundays has risen to more than one million, following years that have seen the September 11 terrorist attacks, the foot-and-mouth epidemic and the millennium celebrations.

In 1998 churchgoing fell below one million for the first time, but it has recovered across the country. The dioceses of Norwich, Oxford, Guildford and Ripon and Leeds report the biggest rises.

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The increase will be viewed with some scepticism: the way the statistics are gathered has changed. Under the old method, Sunday attendance was estimated at 940,000. The new figure of 1,041,000 represents an 11 per cent increase. Yet the new method, which involves a head count of Sunday and weekday worshippers at every service in October rather than an average figure for numbers at one Sunday service, is felt by church leaders to reflect the picture more accurately.

More than 1.7 million people attend services in Anglican churches or cathedrals at some point in a typical month. The biggest rise has been in cathedral attendances, up to 18,000 in 2001 from 16,500 in 1995 on a typical Sunday and nearly 27,000 from 25,500 in 2000 over a typical week.

The Right Rev John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, said: “Attendance rises because of the ministry of local churches. It is helped by the provision of opportunities for worship. A rural church that provides a late Tuesday evening service will attract other people who want a different style of worship.”

A spokesman for the Ripon and Leeds Diocese said that anecdotal evidence had shown that several developments, including the September 11 attacks, had contributed to the trend. “Foot-and-mouth and 9/11 were big factors in the way the Church was responding at a local level,” he said. “The Church was a focal point for communities for both national and international issues.”

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