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Anglican Cathedrals Enjoy Continued Growth (posted 12 October 2016)

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Anglican Cathedrals Enjoy Continued Growth...

Congregation at Chichester Cathedral by Jim Holden photographer

Cathedral statistics for 2015 recently released by the Church of England show that attendance at cathedral worship continues to increase with mid-week attendance rising and Sunday attendance remaining stable during 2015.  At the end of the last century, cathedrals were faring no better than churches with attendances falling sometimes by 5% a year.  With the new century, everything changed.  Worship in almost all 42 Anglican cathedrals began to rise and it is now up by a third in a decade.  This was in addition to visits by tourists, who number more than eight million.  There are more visits to cathedrals than to English Heritage properties.

On average 36,7000 people (adults and children) attended services each week at 42 cathedrals in England during 2015.  This is an increase of 18% from 31,200 in 2005.  Christmas attendance was 125,200 in 2015 the highest figure since 2011.  Services during Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, attracted an attendance of 824,300 in 2015, the highest figure for the past decade.

Simon Jenkins writing for The Spectator reports that business is booming too.  Cathedral turnover of £220 million has almost doubled in a decade.  This is not just in the 'canon' of medieval cathedrals but in locations such as Blackburn, Wakefield and Bradford.  Becky Clark, the Church of England's Officer for Cathedrals, credits the progress cathedrals have made to the extension of the boundaries of their work, with cathedrals moving into concerts, lectures, conferences, educational activities and exhibitions.

Simon goes on to explore other reasons for this positive growth including the thoughts of sociologist Grace Davies who sees a cathedral's strength as not making any demands on the visitor.  She says that the cathedral responds to  a 'desire for anonymity, the option to come and go without explanation or commitment'.  This analysis is supported by the Church of England's own research which stresses that the cathedral is a place for 'peace, contemplation, worship, music and a friendly atmosphere.'  The reasons and motivations for a visit to a Cathedral may be varied and many but no one can deny that these are positive trends for Anglican cathedrals.

Their soaring popularity challenges those inclined to pessimism about the human condition (Simon Jennkins, author of England's Cathedrals)
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