At least 3.7 million people have watched The Church of England's national online services during the last year.
Since the coronavirus restrictions on places of worship were introduced, the organisation has held 54 national services with 352 people taking part in prayers, readings, or reflections. Clips and content from the services have been seen 40 million times on social media channels.
Speaking to Premier, Head of Digital for the Church of England, Amaris Coles said they were “thrilled” to have engaged with millions of people.
“We are delighted that we have been able to meet so many people despite the challenging situation that we are still in. And it's been great to see the number of people who have been able to engage who haven't engaged before with our services in our buildings,” she said.
Of those surveyed, 19.7 per cent said they were taking part with the Church of England online for the first time.
Asked about what these figures mean for the Church of England moving forward, Coles said they are “looking to continue streaming the services as long as they are useful to people".
“We're doing some research at the moment into how people are engaging, why they're engaging, and what they're looking for. As the word begins to reopen,” she continued.
There has also been a surge in the number of people engaging in the Church of England prayer and discipleship apps through which people can access morning and evening prayer. It has been accessed eight million times, an increase of 50 per cent more than last year.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “As we look and plan ahead it’s not a question of either online worship or meeting in-person, but of how we will be shaped by the experience and commitments of the last year, to try new things, to value the things we perhaps took for granted before, and to reach out to more people with the invitation to participate in the good news of Jesus Christ.”
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell said: “I think there has been a digital coming of age.”
He added: “Many churches report that they have more people participating in their online services than used to meet in person.
“Of course, I hope these new online worshippers will join us in person one day. But even if they don’t, we must carry on nurturing these online communities and seeing it as a way of reaching out to new people and building new communities of faith.”