In God we trust: pews fill up as the economy slows down

Clerics believe the credit crunch is responsible for a steady rise in congregations

As the UK becomes increasingly godless, clerics preaching to rows of empty pews have come up with a new tactic: they are inviting their parishioners to "bring a heathen". And, with a little help from the faltering economy, it seems to be working. The Church of England says it has added thousands of newcomers to its flock since the start of this year.

Back to Church Sunday, an annual service where parishioners take a friend to church, attracted 37,000 new congregants this year – double the number who attended in 2007.

Canon Paul Bayes, the Archbishop of Canterbury's adviser on church growth, said the invite-a-friend scheme was a remarkable success. "It works because it's very natural; it plays to the love that Christians have for their church, but also the love that they have for their friends. You're inviting someone you already know to something you already love."

He added that the economy could be part of the reason why so many were being attracted to church. "The fact that people are more open to going back to church and taking stock may well be down to the economy. Anything that shakes the structure of your life makes us think more about internal things, which makes it more likely to think 'I'll give church a try'."

At Chelmsford Cathedral in Essex, the congregation has grown by 7 per cent in one year. Last year 108,000 people came to the cathedral, but this year's figure is expected to reach 117,000 by the end of December. Pastoral assistant Tony Allen said the cathedral was holding a record 22 carol services. "We always have a whole string of carol services, but we have even more this year. When there's a difficult period, as now, people yearn for something greater than life."

At Canterbury Cathedral, a ticketed Christmas Eve service has already sold out, and an extra one has been laid on for the 23rd. Loudspeakers will be put outside so those unable to enter can listen to the service. Westminster Abbey also expects to be full this year.

At Southwark Cathedral in south London, the rush is not just for Christmas: numbers have been steadily increasing all year. A Sunday service in October had an unprecedented 1,000–strong congregation, usually not seen outside Christmas and Easter.

"It was extraordinary," said Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark Cathedral. He believes this Christmas will be busier than ever. "My instinct says that the recession will mean we see more people this Christmas. We're putting on an additional choir service on a weekday before Christmas, as well as the Sunday afternoon service."

Church elders believe that the recession has prompted people to rethink their values. Dr John Preston, national stewardship officer for the Church of England and author of several books on Christianity and consumerism, said: "The downturn challenges materialism and people are finding meaning in alternatives; for some that's Christianity and God. It's undeniably true that the severity and speed of the economic downturn have challenged a lot of people to ask questions about where they place their trust."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
News
people
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Website Editor

£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

Year 2 Teacher - Maternity cover

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments