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Getting geeky with the CofE

Image of church statistician at work

It must be an interesting week down in the Communications Unit of the Church of England. The first two press releases of the week concerned, firstly, the annual league table of the Bishop’s expenses for last year (which prefaces the news that their offices, diocesan functions and other working costs collectively totalled £10.7 million by helpfully reminding us what bishops actually do) and, secondly, the annual statistics for giving, attendance and vocation.

While it will be a better man/woman than me that wades through the bishop’s expense accounts to find out who gives value for money and who does not, the annual statistics for giving, attendance and vocation always make interesting reading.

For a start, did you know that the Church of England officially believes in tithing? Since 1978, according to the press release, General Synod has recommended giving of 10% of disposable income with 5% of that due to the Church. The Church is nowhere near that financial promised land but at least we’ve broken a fiver a week for the first time! It’s quite depressing really… I do recognise that many worshippers are not flush with cash but a fiver a week? A couple of pints, a McDonalds, a woman’s magazine or two. Surely, it’s not much to ask?

On a better note, the stattos have also calculated that the number of people being recommended for ordination training (i.e. about where I am now) and those being ordained (where I hope to be in a couple of years time) has risen yet again. Those stats don’t include me, I don’t think, since they are for 2005 so I will watch next year’s announcement with interest.However, I already know that the year I leave college, my own diocese will be a “net-exporter” for the first time in a while which has to be a good, positive sign.

Attendance figures are not much different to last year; down slightly where last year’s were up slightly. What is good is that the number of children and young people rose by two per cent. Again, an encouraging sign.

There are some lovely ‘other features’ though in the article. The dioceses that saw annual growth in their figures are named (which means you can work out which dioceses didn’t see any growth)… kind of name and shame in reverse. Lastly, we are informed that 86% of adults have attended a church or other place of worship in the past year which I think is a phenomenal statistic.

The next time The Times runs an article saying church attendance is down (which they probably will given that the overall figure was down slightly this year), it’s interesting to know there’s more to it than just an apparent ever decreasing circle.

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