Diocese of Norwich bucks falling church numbers trend
The Diocese of Norwich is bucking the trend of declining Church of England attendances with figures published this week revealing that across the country in 2014 just under one million people attended Anglican services each week. Keith Morris reports.
The survey, carried out over four weeks in October 2014, found that nationally 980,000 people attending church each week, including 830,000 adults and 150,000 children, a 12% decline in the last decade.
But in the Diocese of Norwich, the average all-age weekly attendance increased from 17,500 in 2013 to 17,800 in 2014 bucking the national trend.
The Diocese of Norwich average all-age Sunday attendance increased from 14,100 to 14,500 over the same period, the average usual Sunday attendance increased from 15,300 to 15,600 and the Diocesan worshipping community increased from 20,300 to 20,400 (defined as those who attend a church service at least once a month).
These Norwich figures did, however, disguise a drop in average weekly child attendances from 2,000 to just 1,600, but the Sunday child attendances stood firm at 1,100.
Regular worshippers made up 2.3% of the population in the Norwich Diocese compared to 2% nationally and 3.8% of the Christian population (3.4% nationally), putting it in the top third of dioceses across the country. The Christian population is defined as those affiliated with the CofE or other Christian denominations.
Attendances at Easter and Christmas presented a mixed picture in the Norwich Diocese.
Easter attendances went up from 26,000 in 2013 to 27,600 in 2014 while Christmas attendances dropped from 54,700 to 52,800. The number of communicants did however increase on both occasions.
In the traditional births, marriages and death figures, the Diocese of Norwich conducted more than its fair share of services, ranked at number four out of 43 dioceses. Of 9,190 births, 1280 (14%) were celebrated with a CofE baptism or thanksgiving service, 1,240 marriages services were performed and with 9,520 recorded deaths, the Diocese of Norwich’s ministers conducted 4,440 services (47%).
There were also 251 confirmations and 180 adult baptisms in the Diocese of Norwich during 2014.
Reacting to the Diocese of Norwich figures, the Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich (pictured right), told Network Norfolk: “It’s pleasing that the latest church attendance figures provide some good news about growth in the Diocese of Norwich. It is almost ten years since the Committed to Growth initiative was launched and parishes were encouraged to draw up growth plans. There has been a concerted effort in many places to grow the Church in discipleship, service and numbers.
“There are some churches where numerical growth has been significant. St Thomas, Norwich and Cromer (which sees the largest overall congregations on a Sunday) are good examples.
“But these figures reflect growth in many other much smaller churches too. A congregation of ten people which doubles in size may not make a huge impression on the statistics but is very important for the local community and the vibrancy of Christian faith.
“The clergy and laypeople of the Diocese of Norwich deserve appreciation and gratitude for their commitment to Jesus Christ and his mission in the world. We are now renewing and revising our Mission Strategy in preparation for the next decade.”
Diocese of Norwich factfile
Area 1,800 square miles
Christian population 538,000 (from 2011 Census)
Population per church 1,390
Electoral roll 17,700
The full statistics are available here
Read our story on the national figures
Pictured top is St Thomas Norwich, an example of growth.
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