The decline in church attendance is slowing with many churches not just stemming their losses but increasing their congregations, according to the latest research.
And in Norfolk
attendance figures have stabilised while some of the non-conformist faiths are reporting significant increases.
The report, the 2005 English Church Census
by Christian Research
, claims it is “pulling out of the nosedive” of decline that saw one million people leave the church in the 1990s while in the seven years from 1998 to 2005 only half a million left.
While many churches are now growing the other major reason for the slowing decline is an increasing number of ethnic minority churchgoers, especially black people.
The Rev Ian Bunce
, regional minister for the eastern Baptist
association, said throughout Norfolk different cultures and groups were getting together to worship.
a new Portugese service was set up a couple of weeks ago and that has around 40 or so people,” he said.
He added that there was significant growth in many of their churches.
“I think there is a realisation of spirituality, searching for answers to spiritual questions and they are doing that through the church. Non-conformist churches are doing well because people are looking to belong to a community which does not worry about structures but is about building friendships.
“We have also moved with the times. When the Sunday trading laws came in we had to adapt and become more flexible and offer different styles of worship across all age groups.”
The research shows that over a third of churches are growing and a quarter of the churches which were declining in the 1990s are growing. However the declining churches are still losing more people than the growing churches are gaining. The net effect is that overall 6.3pc of the population attend church on a Sunday compared to 7.5pc in 1998. The major factor in the decline is the age of the churchgoing population - 29pc are 65 or over.
The Rev Jan McFarlane
, spokesman for the Norwich Diocese,
said the church has had to look at itself and what it could do to make it more attractive.
“We are looking at new styles while retaining the traditional elements. There is more interest in the subject of religion. They are turning back to the church.”
The congregation at Oak Grove Chapel,
an independent evangelical church on Catton Grove Road in Norwich
, has doubled in the past five years to 170 regular worshippers.
Pastor Ian Savory
said they were putting money into the new primary school in Old Catton in order to be able to use the school hall at weekends as their current premises were too small.
There is further evidence of growth online. The new Norwich Christian community website, www.networknorwich.co.uk,
has attracted 900 users and 43,000 page impressions a month just nine months after its launch.
Article by Kathryn Cross, courtesy of www.EDP24.co.uk