Friday, 12 October 2007

Falling numbers put churches under threat

Just two per cent of people attend church in Brighton and Hove.

Of those, 60 per cent are aged 65 or over.

As a result of the statistics, the Diocesan Pastoral Committee has earmarked several churches for closure in the city.

The committee said: "Change is never easy and there are many people who would like things to continue much as they have always been. This is not an option."

The Archdeacon of Chichester, the Venerable Douglas McKittrick, chaired a working party on the issue.

He estimates each vicar in Brighton and Hove costs more than £50,000 a year, taking into account rent, pensions and other costs.
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In 2002 the cost of clergy in the city came to about £2 million, exceeding congregational funds by about £800,000.

Meanwhile, with low congregational collections, the Rev Richard Rushforth, of St Andrew's Church in Portslade, said: "Having a church in Brighton is like having a mortgage you can't pay off or having a credit card you've spent too much money on." Read more
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Peter Kirk said...

(Chelmsford, and interested in this because we are starting to see the same problem here.)

Just two per cent of people attend church in Brighton and Hove.

Is this figure for all churches, or just for Anglican ones? If indeed "Many people here prefer new wave, modern, charismatic churches like Christ the King", then the problem would seem to be that the Anglican churches are out of touch with the people of Brighton. Or perhaps the people are so anti-establishment that no Anglican church will be suitable for them. But other churches like Christ the King seem to be flourishing. So should we mourn that the people of Brighton are leaving the Church of England, or rejoice that they are finding Christ in other places?

Revd John P Richardson said...

Er ... both rejoice and mourn?

I'm fairly sure it is an 'Anglican' figure. It would be pretty close to our 1.4% for 2002.

I would be fascinated to see an actuary's predictions of where our diocese will be in ten years time on the basis of these figures.

In the Saffron Walden Deanery I am about to propose that we begin addressing the issue of growth with an 'age profiling' audit. That will give us a good idea of how long we've got. I would assume 80% of the over-80s will have gone to glory in ten year's time, and 60% of the over-70s.

What I think is not being taken into account is that with a predominantly elderly community, the decline is sudden and catastrophic, not gradual, as people suddenly begin to die off in large numbers.

Given that 55% of them were over 61, and 34% over 71, my guesstimate is that by 2012, up to 20% of the existing diocesan 'membership' in 2002 will have died, or one in five!

Peter Kirk said...


Yes, indeed both rejoice and mourn.

I agree that age profiling is important. See this from Chelmsford South deanery, and my response concerning the much healthier profile of my own church. Perhaps one reason for this is our Fusion evening service targeted at youth and young adults, the first item on our website at the moment, at which the leaders and preachers are almost always under 30. Most Anglican churches, I fear, put on services in a style attractive only to over 60's, and so that is the congregation they get.