Cathedral exceeds national trends for Christmas attendance
Attendance at Christmas services in England’s cathedrals has broken records for the second year running, statistics published today show. At Peterborough Cathedral the national upward trend has been far exceeded.
A total of 135,000 people came to Church of England cathedrals to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 2017 – an increase of three per cent on the previous year, and the highest total since records began. At Peterborough Cathedral a 27% increase in attendance was recorded at these services, with congregation numbers rising from 3781 in 2016, to 4830 in 2017.
National Church of England statistics also show that more young people came through cathedrals’ doors for educational events, with 2017 seeing an increase of three per cent on the previous year with a total of 318,000 children and young people attending, compared with 309,000 in 2016.
At Peterborough the increase in the numbers of young people of school age attending educational sessions rose by 257%, from 3245 in 2016, to 11,652 in 2017.
Cathedrals across the country continued to be centres of civic life, with 1.3 million people reported at 5,300 civic services and events. In 2017, 289,000 people attended 290 graduation ceremonies. This is also reflected at Peterborough where 1432 people attended graduation ceremonies in 2017, including those of Anglia Ruskin University and UCP (University Centre Peterborough).
The Cathedral also saw a substantial increase in the number of people attending other events, such as concerts or social occasions. There were 35 events attended by 8346 people in 2017, compared with 24 events attended by 5119 people in 2016. The Very Revd Chris Dalliston, Dean of Peterborough, who took up his post in January 2018, said:
“These figures show a most encouraging trend towards the Cathedral becoming a place where people from all walks of life feel welcome. This is certainly something my colleagues have been working hard to achieve and it is a credit to them that the statistics show such a significant increase in the numbers coming here for worship, learning and fun. At the heart of our welcome at the Cathedral is the love of God, which is for everyone regardless of who they are or where they come from.”
Peterborough Cathedral’s visitor figures are likely to show another significant increase in 2018, when numbers coming to see Tim Peake’s Spacecraft and the Museum of the Moon are taken into account. From 10th August to date, approximately 120,000 people have visited to see the exhibitions and look around the historic building. During October half term so far, large numbers of families have also been visiting the Cathedral to take part in free events.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, The Church of England’s lead bishop for cathedrals said:
“Year after year our cathedrals continue to have enormous appeal to worshippers and visitors. They are awe-inspiring buildings, places to explore faith and encounter God - and centres of learning, outreach, service to the community and civic life. This year they will be at the heart of the nation’s commemorations for the centenary of the end of the First World War.”
“Christmas is a natural opportunity for people to re-connect with their church or cathedral, and the growth in numbers of those doing so over the past ten years is very encouraging. We hope that still more people will have the joy of rediscovering the Christmas story in a cathedral or church in 2018, and our campaign #FollowTheStar is all about helping them to do so. Everyone can be assured of a very warm welcome.”
The Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, Adrian Dorber, who is Dean of Lichfield said:
“Cathedrals minister in a culture that is more and more diverse, spiritually attuned, but religiously unaffiliated. They offer a mixture of absolute reliability, being open every day, and missionary enterprise. We attract large numbers of committed and skilled volunteers and the public likes to visit not only at Christmas and for national commemorations but also for events, performances and exhibitions where they are free to think new thoughts, wonder, reflect and pray.
“Much of our outreach work through education and music is reaching bigger numbers of schools and students year on year and it’s good to be able to help a rising generation with their discovery of their talents and knowledge.
“Cathedrals aren’t complacent about what opportunities lie before them, but these statistics accurately portray where they are making an impact and what they are trying to do.”