A recent report by Christian Research indicates that church attendance has dramatically declined in England, but Anglican ministers and Roman Catholic priests disagree, saying that the statistics are an indicator of change rather than decline.
The report found that worshippers at weekly services have decreased by 3,000 in Liverpool and by 5,600 in Chester between 2000 and 2002, and that overall the Church of England has lost 100,000 members from its congregations in the same period, a decline of nearly eight per cent.
The executive director of Christian Research, Peter Brierley, told the Daily Post that the overall drop needed urgent attention and predicted that the decline could get worse after about 2020 when ageing churchgoers died.
But David Johnstone, spokesman for the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool, said the statistics don't represent the reality in Liverpool. “There are many vibrant, dynamic churches that are moving forward and growing in strength,” he said, adding that the numbers of young people attending church are increasing.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool also disagrees with the poor forecast offered by the report. "Following a distinct decline in the mid-1990s, the annual figures have proved to be remarkably stable over the past five years," a spokesperson for the archdiocese told the Daily Post.
The average number of under-16s in English congregations is on the rise. "There is a healthy ministry to young people, with large groups attending regular monthly celebrations at churches all over the area," said the archdiocese
Rev. Roger Driver in Bootle told the Daily Post that congregation numbers are not falling; worshipping habits are changing.
"It is not that the numbers are declining, but that patterns in lifestyle are changing,” he said. "Many ministries in the area have moved events from Sunday and found that more people have turned up."
Some churches holding more lunchtime services during the week to accommodate the needs of office workers, while others are moving Sunday evening services to week nights in order to fit in with shift workers.