The Very Reverend Adrian Dorber, the Dean of Lichfield, said that pressurised lifestyles had led to more and more people opting for midweek attendance at cathedrals instead.
The Church of England released figures yesterday showing that the number of people attending midweek services at cathedrals had doubled over the past ten years, from 7,500 in 2003 to 15,000 in 2013. Over the same period, Sunday attendances remained roughly level, at 15,600 adults in 2003 and 15,900 in 2013.
Mr Dorber said that for those who wanted a short snatch of peace the appeal behind midweek services was that there was a “guarantee that they’re going to be reasonably short”, at a time when “life’s run at the double”.
“At the weekend you’ve got commitments with children doing sport, shopping, household maintenance . . . weekends are very pressurised and very committed,” he said. “Taking out half an hour or an hour during the week is much more negotiable. It comes out of much more discretionary time.”
The Church of England report also suggested that the weather played a part in how often people attended cathedral services, and that Christmas attendances depended on when in the week it fell. In 2012, Christmas was on a Tuesday. Last year, when it was on a Wednesday, the number of worshippers who went to cathedral rose by 6 per cent to 124,300.
“Christmas attendance fluctuates depending on the day it falls and the weather,” the report said. “In general, attendance is greater when Christmas day falls at the weekend.”
Since the 1960s, the number of people attending parish church services has halved to below 800,000. Senior figures in the Church of England have urged the institution to reinvent itself for the 21st century. The Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, said last month that “anything less will leave us to wither away, rather like the once mighty Lancashire cotton industry. A few tweaks and adjustments will not suffice”.
Last year, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said that Christianity was just a “generation away from extinction”.
The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York Minster, suggested that people found it easier to drop in to midweek services.
“If I take a eucharist at 12.30 in the middle of the week in the nave of York Minster, there’ll be a lot of people who just slide in from the side,” she said. “It’s not so much about anonymity, there’s the feeling there’s a journey you can travel which doesn’t require huge steps — it just requires one little step.”
Some have suggested that cathedrals are attracting greater numbers of worshippers because they have adapted to younger communities by, for example, opening cafes.
Liverpool Cathedral has extended its cafe and set up a “Night of the Living Dead” on Hallowe’en. The Church of England said that contemplation and peace, worship and music were reasons for higher attendance.
Source : thetimes.co.uk