Church of England attendance statistics show Cumbrian wedding boost

The number of people choosing to marry in a Church of England ceremony in Cumbria has leaped, according to a new report.

The Church of England’s Statistics for Mission 2014, published yesterday, show there was an extra 60 diocesan weddings across the county – a year on year increase of nearly 8%.


Figures for the Diocese of Carlisle – the Church of England in Cumbria – reveal a total of 830 weddings last year, the highest figure recorded in the last six years.


The Bishop of Penrith, the Rt Rev’d Robert Freeman, said: “It is really encouraging to see that in recent years more and more couples are choosing to celebrate and exchange their vows in our churches.


“Weddings are an important part of the life of a church and it is great to be able to acknowledge that so many couples feel it is important that they commit to each other in church before their witnesses and God.”


The number of funeral services in churches and crematoria or cemeteries and the number of baptisms has fallen. However, in terms of percentage of population, the diocese’s figures for baptisms, marriages and church funerals are among the highest nationally.


The Church of England survey, carried out over four weeks in October 2014, also reveals that the average number of adults attending church each week has fallen, though the figures for child attendance are static. It mirrors a national trend which shows an average decline in attendance of just over 1% a year over the past decade.


However, the diocese remains committed to growing disciples through the ecumenical God for All strategy, with the aim that by 2020 every person in Cumbria has had an opportunity to know more about the reality of God and God’s purpose in their lives.


The vision draws together strategies for buildings, outreach and ministry and has mission at its centre. The first of more than 40 mission communities – mutually supportive groups of churches which are mission-centred and aimed at growth – is set to be commissioned in the coming months.


Bishop Robert added: “In terms of general church attendance, these figures do not come as a surprise. They strengthen our commitment as churches in Cumbria to be churches for everyone, and to help all people in Cumbria find ways to discover the reality of God and experience Christian community in a way that makes sense to them.


“There will always be a need and a place for traditional church but we are committed to also doing church differently and enabling people to be more fulfilled through a living faith. That is what our God for All initiative is all about.


“Nationally the Church is embarking upon the biggest renewal and reform process in over 150 years, focusing resources on prayer, evangelism, discipleship, vocations, leadership and training.


“And that is what we’re doing here too. In recent months we’ve seen the key appointments of a Fresh Expressions Enabler and an Evangelism Enabler within our Reach team. Already one in ten people who are involved with church are doing that through Fresh Expressions of church and we will want to build on that.


“We must take time to prayerfully reflect about this latest report. But we must also feel emboldened that through our God for All vision we will grow God’s kingdom here in Cumbria.


“And we must also acknowledge the hard work which continues in our parishes and the signs of growth and encouragement which result, from new city centre church plants through to missions of outreach such as last year’s Believe in Barrow and the everyday faithful work and care of Christians and clergy across Cumbria.”


The Statistics for Mission also reveal that in terms of percentage of population, Cumbria has one of the largest attendances at Christmas church services. The Easter attendance rate mirrors the national trend.


Bishop Robert added: “The high percentage of people in Cumbria who choose a church service for baptism, marriage or a funeral and who choose to worship in our churches at Christmas and Easter demonstrates that there is already a strong connection between people and church.


“These annual figures are always an important marker. However following Jesus is more than just about how often we attend church. It is about how we live out our lives and bear witness to God’s great love.


“In recent weeks, I have seen that love reflected time and time again in the service Christians and others have offered to those affected by the terrible flooding. With that in mind and also taking account of the exciting times ahead as God for All continues to roll out and our mission communities develop, I am confident that more and more people will come to know God’s love in their lives.”


The statistics are available here: www.churchofengland.org/media/2432327/2014statisticsformission.pdf

For more on God for All got to www.godforall.org.uk.

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For further information please contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager on 07469 153658, 01228 815401 or at communications@carlislediocese.org.uk.