Elephant in the cathedral: Why are so many Anglican holy places empty and, thus, low on funds?

Apr 14, 2017 by

by Terry Mattingly, Get Religion:

Anyone who has followed religion news from England knows that church attendance has been a huge story for some time now and the sobering headlines are only going to increase as the side effects – demographics is destiny, and all of that – become more obvious.

Yes, the statistical rise of Islam is part of this story, but only one part of complex drama. As in America, the rise of “Nones” – the religiously unaffiliated – is a trend that is changing how the English view their nation. That’s part of the urban vs. rural divide at the heart of Brexit. It’s kind of like America’s red vs. blue zip-code battle.

Then there is another obvious question: Is the Church of England still the church of England? Note this headline from last year, care of The Guardian: “Church of England weekly attendance falls below 1m for first time.” Here are some of the details:

The number of people attending Church of England services each week has for the first time dropped below 1 million – accounting for less than 2% of the population – with Sunday attendances falling to 760,000.

The statistics … reflect the C of E’s steady decline over recent decades in the face of growing secularism and religious diversity, and the ageing profile of its worshippers. Numbers attending church services have fallen by 12% in the past decade, to less than half the levels of the 1960s.

The story included two other numbers that would catch the eye of careful reporters: “The church conducted 130,000 baptisms in the year, down 12% since 2004; 50,000 marriages, down 19%. …”

I bring this up because of a sad, but interesting, Religion News Service piece about another side effect of these numbers. There is no way that this rather dull headline captures the emotions many Brits will feel about this topic: “Endangered Anglican cathedrals prompt Church of England review.”

The bottom line: How does one keep the doors of cathedrals open (even for tourists) when the faithful rarely kneel at the altars or bring children into the pews?

Read here

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