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Diocese of Worcester
UK News

1 in 4 rural CofE churches has less than 10 worshippers, says new report

by Aaron James

The report also found half of all rural Church of England places of worship have less than 20 faithful on a Sunday.

In all, 4,000 Anglican churches have attendance figures of twenty or less on a Sunday.

The attendance figures, coupled with the £160 million rural parishes spend to maintain their properties every year, have prompted the Church of England to consider shutting some country churches and open them only on special occasions like Easter, Christmas, weddings and funerals.

The maintenance expense is partly due to the fact Church of England places of worship make up nearly half of all the country's Grade 1 listed buildings.

The Bishop of Worcester Rt Revd John Inge chaired the report, and said: "Our 16,000 church buildings are a visible sign of on-going Christian faith in communities throughout England as well as being an unparalleled part of our country's heritage.
"This report looks at how we can best support the thousands of local volunteers who care deeply for and about churches and offer wonderful service to their communities using their churches.

"We believe that - apart from growing the church - there is no single solution to the challenges posed by our extensive responsibility for part of the nation's heritage.

"We hope therefore that this work will be a catalyst for discussion about how churches can be better cared for and used for the common good."

The report includes proposals to:

  • Secure more assured financial support for listed cathedrals and church buildings for the long term
  • Change the law to create some specific new flexibilities for parishes and dioceses
  • Strengthen diocesan strategic capacity and incorporate building reviews into mission and ministry planning
  • Enable individual dioceses and the Church Commissioners to agree arrangements for giving the latter a bigger role in seeking a use for closed buildings
  • Establish a single team at Church House on church buildings issues
  • Create a new Church Buildings Commission for England that would replace the Church Buildings Council, its Statutory Advisory Committee and the Church Commissioners' Church Buildings (Uses and Disposals) Committee.

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