Europe has long been the subject of discussion over decreasing church attendance, as it is generally assumed that godlessness is on the rise in the region. But it seems there are some developments in England that may appear positive for those who hold out hope for a religious revival. According to official church statistics, the ongoing decline in attendance at houses of worship appears to be slowing.
Religion News Service (RNS) reports that, while Anglican church attendance has continued to drop in England, there are some positive signs that the decline may actually be starting to stabilize. Of the 16,247 parishes in the nation, average church attendance was 1.1 million in 2011, according to a spokesperson for the Church of England. This was down only 0.3 percent from proportion observed in 2010.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh stands with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, right, and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, left, after the ceremonial funeral service for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in London, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. In the foreground are Thatcher's children Mark, right, and Carol, left. Credit: AP
Of course, 0.3 percent is still a decline, but it's important to note, as per RNS's analysis, that Sunday church attendance fell about 1 percent each year from 2000 until 2011; the 0.3 percent proportion is notably smaller. While it may certainly be an anomaly, it's possible that it's also a sign that faith could be gaining a bit of ground in England. RNS has more:
The annual statistics reveal a substantial increase in attendance at the country’s storied cathedrals: Christmas churchgoing rose by 14 percent, christenings were up 4.3 percent and adult baptisms were up 5 percent. The number of weddings was down 3.6 percent, to 51,880.
The 1.1 million Britons in church pales in comparison to the estimated 22 million — about four in 10 Britons — who are considered official members of the Church of England.
CANTERBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: The Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby (C), the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, leads the Easter Sunday service at Canterbury Cathedral on March 31, 2013 in Canterbury, England. Justin Welby was enthroned on March 21, 2013 as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England. Credit: Getty Images
Not all of the statistics are positive, though. Still, it's worth continuing to monitor to see what this could mean in the long run. RNS has the full story.
Is a religious resurgence on the horizon -- or will faith simply plateau and stop bleeding supporters in England? These questions can only be answered with time and continued analysis, but the most recent statistics will likely be seen as positive by many who have been hoping and praying for a revival.
(H/T: Religion News Service)