Churches halt exodus

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The Independent Online
Churches are holding on to more of their congregations as they become more user-friendly, according to a report published yesterday.

Schemes such as mission projects have helped to slow the fall in congregations seen during the Eighties, the rise in donations is no longer being outstripped by inflation, and the number of new churches opening exceeds the number of closures. There is currently one new congregation a week.

The figures highlight the Church's success in the first half of its "decade of evangelism".

In a "half-term" study, the Church says pledges have risen 20 per cent in real terms. Latest figures show the average parishioner gave pounds 4.52 a week in 1993 against pounds 3.77 in 1990.

Average attendances are down since 1990 - from 1.14 million to 1.09 million But the report says the decline has slowed. It claims the Church of England has become more "user-friendly" in its attempts to grow and spread the Christian message.

No longer does it rely on preachers to communicate the Gospel. Instead the whole congregation is involved.

Canon Robert Warren, national officer for evangelism and the report's author, highlighted a number of signs that the Church was grappling with evangelism in new and creative ways. There was a wider range of community projects, including parenting courses, and more people were attending training events to learn new ways of communicating the faith.

Launching the report, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, said the signs of growth "confound the doom-and-gloom merchants claiming the Church of England is on its last legs". He said a number of targets had been identified for the second half of the decade. More needed to be done to reach out to children and young people and more effort had to be placed on deepening the Church's spiritual life.

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