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Survey shows rapid drop in Britain’s church-goers

The number of people in Britain going to church is falling rapidly and only one in 10 adults attends church weekly even though 53 percent of adults or 26.2 million people in the United Kingdom identify themselves as Christian.

A survey, "Churchgoing in the UK Today", by Christian relief and development agency Tearfund, said this reflects a drop of 20 percent in weekly church attendance from a similar survey conducted six years ago. The survey shows that 7.6 million adults go to church each month. One in four (12.6 million) attend at least once a year.

The survey report, however, said it also shows that 3 million people who have stopped going to church or who have never been in their lives, would consider attending given the right invitation.

The survey polled 7000 adults. The total population of the United Kingdom is estimated to be 60 million.

Christianity is "still the predominant faith in Britain", the survey found, with more than half of all adults, claiming to be Christian; while other faiths account for 3.2 million adults (or six percent). Three out of five people in the population are affiliated with faith. The remainder, constituting about 39 percent, claim to have no religion.

"The report emphasises the need for Christians to be open to their communities, to develop genuine friendships and to build bridges that will make the church a more inviting home for those who are seeking," Pastor Don McFarlane, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK and Ireland, was quoted as saying in a comment on the report.

Tearfund’s president, Elaine Storkey, quoted in the report, told BBC Radio Five Live, "The church for a lot of people is a very strange place these days. They’re not familiar with what’s going on inside the building, with the form of service, with the way people gather, with what they say, how they pray."

The survey also shows Christianity in Britain today has a multi-cultural face with nearly 1 million adults attending ethnic majority churches. Regular churchgoing is particularly high among adults of black ethnic origin at 48 percent – more than three times the proportion among white adults (15 percent). The denominations with the largest number of ethnic majority worshippers are Pentecostal (23 percent), Roman Catholic (23
percent) and Church of England/Anglican (19 percent).

The survey finds that the "biggest challenge remains people opting out of religion altogether". Two thirds of those surveyed (66 percent) or 32.2 million people "have no connection with church at present (or with any other religion)", the report states.

Still, Matthew Frost, chief executive of Tearfund, said: "What is clear from this survey is that the UK is holding firmly to the Christian faith. This is a great encouragement to Tearfund – we tackle poverty and injustice in partnership with churches in some of the world’s poorest communities and we could not do it without the volunteers, prayer and money from churches throughout the UK supporting other churches around the world in the fight against poverty."

(c) Ecumenical News International