Further to the last post, my Diocese, Bath and Wells, continues to be one of the Dioceses with falling membership, despite having a higher ratio of clergy to general population than most other Dioceses (explained mostly by the number of rural churches we have - there are 2 local villages which have a church and population of around 40), despite the fact that 15 other Dioceses have experienced growth in the last year.
Even more local, I've been crunching our Deanery figures (for non-Anglicans, a Deanery is a local grouping of parishes, ours covers Yeovil and the surrounding villages, 27 churches in all).
The good news: all but 2 of the churches have experienced numerical growth at some stage in the last 5 years. The bad news: it's rarely sustained, and in each of those 5 years the number of shrinking churches has outnumbered the growing ones. Church membership across the Deanery has fallen nearly 12% since 1996, and though 9 churches have grown overall during that time, many of these have been smaller ones, and the drops in other churches far outweigh the gains. As with the national picture, big losses in a few churches wipe out small gains in others.
When a church has a membership of 6, it's hard to read anything statistically significant into an increase or decrease of 1. Maybe someone's mother in law was visiting the week they counted. Aside from one or two of these, and a couple of larger churches which have grown by a fraction, 3 churches have grown in a significant way in the last 10 years.
Holy Trinity Yeovil, who moved to a new building at the heart of their community in 1998, and saw a big jump in membership around that time, which they've just about held onto since.
And those heroes of mission strategy and visionary leadership, erm, Tintinhull and Chilthorne Domer. 2 villages just up the road from here, with faithful parish ministry, high church worship, and a commitment to their local schools and community (do you know anywhere else where the Rector organises and inter-village conker championship?)
Next year will be interesting - new leadership at a couple of churches, a new cafe service at another, and a parish Action Plan at our church which is bearing fruit in lots of other areas - trouble is, as we can't physically fit anyone else into the building, growth will be tricky until we start running more main services, whether on a Sunday or at another time of the week.
If you want the crunched numbers, drop me a comment and I'll email the spreadsheet to you.
In the meantime, great to hear today of a thriving Polish congregation at the local RC church, I wonder whether the indigenous Polish culture will survive contact with our broken society, or maybe God's brought them here not just to drive taxis and work in nursing homes but to pray for us and to be a source of goodness in the community.