Diocese of Norwich bucks church attendance trend with rise in numbers

The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James.Picture: James Bass.

The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James.Picture: James Bass. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Norfolk has been bucking the trend when it comes to church attendance, with new figures showing congregations in the Norwich Diocese have increased despite a national fall.

A national survey, carried out over four weeks in October 2014, found 980,000 people attending church each week, with 830,000 adults and 150,000 children.

The figures reflected a continuing trend which has shown a 12pc decrease in attendance over the past decade with an average decline of just over 1pc a year.

But, in the Diocese of Norwich, the average all-age weekly attendance increased from 17,500 in 2013 to 17,800 in 2014.

The average all-age Sunday attendance increased from 14,100 to 14,500 over the same period, the average usual Sunday attendance increased from 15,300 to 15,600 and the Diocesan worshipping community - those who attend a church service at least once a month - went up from 20,300 to 20,400.

The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich said: 'It's pleasing that the latest church attendance figures provide some good news about growth in the diocese.

'It is almost 10 years since the Committed to Growth initiative was launched and parishes were encouraged to draw up growth plans. There has been a concerted effort in many places to grow the Church in discipleship, service and numbers.'

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He said at St Thomas in Earlham Road, the congregation had grown from 50 to 450 people in just two years.

He said: 'There are some churches where numerical growth has been significant. St Thomas, Norwich and Cromer (which sees the largest overall congregations on a Sunday) are good examples.

But these figures reflect growth in many other much smaller churches too. A congregation of 10 people which doubles in size may not make a huge impression on the statistics but is very important for the local community and the vibrancy of Christian faith

The number of people attending church in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich area has fallen for six years running.

However The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: 'In the eight months I have been in Suffolk I've seen growth in churches right across the county, especially where congregations are engaging with young people, and helping people connect with the Christian message in fresh ways.'

In 2009 there was an average of 15,500 people attending church each Sunday and a weekly average of 18,100 people. In 2014 those figures had fallen to 12,400 and 15,200 respectively.

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