Diocese of Portsmouth

    Our pews filling up, latest figures show

    26 Jan. 2003

    More people are now going to Anglican churches around Portsmouth, Petersfield and the Isle of Wight than before.

    The latest attendance statistics show that an average of 12,200 adults a week went to Sunday services in the Anglican diocese of Portsmouth in 2001 - up from 11,500 the previous year.

    The seven per cent rise was the largest in the Church of England that year and contrasts with the national figure, which was down by one per cent. It is the second year in a row that the number of adult worshippers in Sunday services has increased within the diocese. In 1999, the weekly average was just 11,000.

    The figures relate to the size of congregations in October 2001 - before the impetus given to mission by the bishop's 'Stepping Out' initiative in the diocese's 75th anniversary year, but immediately after a mission weekend in the city of Portsmouth.

    Because the figures are being compared with the previous count in February 2000, some parish statistics were flattered by the inclusion of popular Harvest Festival services within the 2001 figures.

    But among the parishes recording genuine growth in Sunday congregations were St John's, Fareham; St Wilfrid's, Cowplain; St Peter's, Petersfield; St Cuthbert's, Copnor; St Mary's, Fratton Road, Portsmouth, and St Jude's, Southsea.

    Some smaller congregations also saw their numbers increase - St Peter's, Seaview; St Peter's, Hayling Island; St Mary's, Brading; and All Saints, Gurnard.

    The diocese's newly-appointed director of mission, the Ven Peter Hancock,  said: "This is encouraging news, especially as these figures relate to the period before most parish Stepping Out projects began.

    "Although the number of adults worshipping in church on Sunday is only one measure of how effective we are at communicating the gospel, it is an encouraging statistic. I'm certainly glad it is going in the right direction as I take up my post, and it shows that not all in the Church of England is doom and gloom."

    There were also 2,400 children attending Anglican Sunday worship in the diocese in 2001 - bringing the average size of weekly congregations to 14,700.

    When the numbers of adults and children attending acts of worship during the rest of the week was also included, the number of weekly worshippers in the diocese rose to 16,900.

    And the total number on church electoral rolls - the parish membership lists - in 2001 was 20,500. That was an increase of 200 on the previous year's figure.

    The number of baptisms, marriages and funerals had declined overall, but the number of services of thanksgiving for the birth of a child had increased.

    And there were 24,600 people in the diocese's churches on Easter Eve and  Easter Day 2001 and 41,100 for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2001. Both figures were lower than the previous year, although that was partly because Christmas Eve 2000 was a Sunday.