Friday, May 16, 2008

Lies, damned lies, and more diocesan attendance stats

a few days ago I posted a Church of England 'league table' of average adult weekly attendance, following up a previous post about whether the Church of England was turning the corner on decline.

Two bits of unfinished business from the last, before leaving stats well alone for a bit. Again, all the usual caveats apply.

1. Midweek attendance: the CofE stats 2001-6 show the following (figures for adults)

Sunday attendance 2001: 868,000; 2006: 828000 (-4.8%)
Midweek attendance 2001: 108,000; 2006: 109,000 (+0.9%)

So midweek attendance is holding up better than Sunday attendance, and becoming a more important part of the picture because of this. However we don't know how much double counting there is in this figure - how many of the midweekers are also Sunday regulars.

2. Change in adult Sunday attendance. This is one of two measures available for 2001-6 comparisons using CofE official stats. I published the weekly attendance table last Saturday, here is the Sunday-only table:

London 10.9%
Manchester 1.8%
Birmingham 1.4%
Gloucester 1.2%
Newcastle 0.9%
York 0.4%
Wakefield -0.7%
Southwell -0.7%
Winchester -1.5%
Bath & Wells -1.9%
Hereford -2.0%
Southwark -2.3%
Chelmsford -2.4%
Chichester -3.2%
Exeter -3.5%
Carlisle -3.8%
Rochester -4.1%
Canterbury -4.1%
St Albans -4.1%
Ripon & Leeds -4.1%
Coventry -5.5%
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich -5.7%
Lincoln -5.9%
Oxford -6.0%
Leicester -6.1%
Guildford -6.5%
Peterborough -7.1%
Portsmouth -7.4%
Bristol -7.8%
Derby -7.9%
Ely -8.2%
Salisbury -8.2%
Truro -9.2%
Sodor & Man -9.5%
Durham -9.9%
Chester -10.9%
Worcester -11.8%
Blackburn -11.8%
Lichfield -11.9%
Norwich -12.3%
Liverpool -13.6%
Bradford -14.3%
Sheffield -17.6%
Church of England -4.9%

1. London still leads by a big margin, though it's interesting to see that Englands top 3 urban sprawls take the top 3 spots. Other urban sprawls take the bottom three, so there probably aren't deep and meaningful conclusions to be drawn.

2. There's a bit of shuffling up and down, but nothing major apart from Norwich, who drop alarmingly.

3. It's still decline, however you measure it, but still at a much slower rate than the 1990s, when all but 8 dioceses saw a double-digit fall in adult Sunday attendance. However these figures are only for 5 years, not 10, and there are still some major implosions going on. The picture is not as bleak as the Christian Research conclusions, but it's also not as rosy as the CofE media briefings sometimes paint it either.

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