Meanwhile in the real world:
New congregations are being formed to take over old redundant church buildings or to provide more youth-friendly services, helping church membership numbers to rise.
The figures, to be published this week by Christian Research, also reveal that the Roman Catholic Church is continuing to enjoy a rise in attendance at Mass, that the number of Pentecostal worshippers is increasing rapidly and that Baptist churches are also enjoying a resurgence.
Church leaders said the study – the first of its kind for three years – showed that reports of Christianity’s demise in the UK were premature
The new statistics reveal that the number of worshippers at regular weekly services in Church of England cathedrals has increased by 28 per cent since 2000. Church of England membership is up, from 1,173,100 in 2007 to 1,179,100 in 2008. Other denominations in the UK which have enjoyed growth include Roman Catholicism, Baptists, and Pentecostals.
In the Catholic Church, there were 1,657,644 attending Mass in 2008, compared with 1,654,556 the year before. Contrary to previous years, the researchers are putting the rise down to “home-grown Catholics” rather than immigration from catholic countries like Poland. The percentage of churchgoers in London is now in the top 10% in Europe and has even overtaken Rome.
Meanwhile, the Baptist Union of Great Britain has seen attendance rise from 148,835 a week in 2002 to 153,714 in 2008 and the Pentecostal church has grown at a faster rate over the same period, rising by 50 per cent to more than 300,000 worshippers.
Benita Hewitt, director of Christian Research, said that the overall picture of the Church in Britain was encouraging. “It’s been in decline for many years, and there have been many predictions of the death of the Church, but things have changed in recent years,” she said.
There are over 40,000 church buildings in the UK - and the number has risen since 2005. And mass attendance in the UK is only 2% lower than in the US.