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Churches encouraged to build on Christmas success

Anglican churches are being encouraged to get more of their congregation at Christmas to become regulars.

Attendance figures released today show 2.6 million people attended a Church of England service on Christmas Day in 2011 but just over one million attended on a weekly basis.

The weekly attendance shows a 0.3% decline on the previous year.

Clergy are being challenged to make better use of the 'shop window' during the festive period.

Revd Arun Arora is the Director of Communications for the Church of England.

Speaking to Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour he explained why Christmas is often a success in churches.

On top of regular activities, the Church has seen:

  • An average of over 2,600 baptisms each week.
  • Christenings increased by 4.3%.
  • Thanksgivings for the birth of a child rise by 11.9%.
  • Weddings decrease of 3.6%
  • The number of wedding blessings (Services of Prayer and Thanksgiving following a civil ceremony) up by 4.5%.
  • Over 400 funerals every day.

The figures have been welcomed by the Church.

Bishop of Norwich Rt Revd Graham James said: "These figures are a welcome reminder of the work and service undertaken by the Church of England annually.

"The attendance figures are heartening, especially the very strong growth in Christmas day attendance.

"The encouraging news of further growth to come even on these high figures is very welcome and points to a growing trend."

Despite the overall fall in attendance - the number of children and young people regularly attending has risen by 1.2%.

Rt Revd Paul Butler is the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

His diocese has seen congregations increase by 11% - the biggest of any diocese in the country.

He tells Premier why he thinks that is.

The British Humanist Association has questioned the positivity of the Church of England.

It says the figures show 98% of the population didn't go to a CofE service on an average week and has challenged its status as the Established Church.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: "In a nation where the church in question has a privileged legal and constitutional position, they must be subject to wider public scrutiny and their implications drawn out.

"What they illustrate yet again is a church established by national law that has long ceased to be a truly national church.

"It is about time the legal position caught up with the social reality and the privileged place of Anglicanism and Anglicans was brought to an end.

"It can't be right for a minority concern to have unique and automatic seats in our parliament, control of nearly a third of our state schools, and almost monopoly public funding for its mission in state funded social institutions like our prisons and hospitals.

"Our diverse and increasingly non-religious society needs a more appropriate settlement."

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