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Congregation figures underestimated

PUBLISHED: 13:07 07 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 March 2010

NEW figures show that on average 23,300 people attend Church of England services in Suffolk every week.

The figure is far more than was thought because a new congregation counting system has been introduced which has revealed that numbers had been under-estimated by as much as one-third in the past.

NEW figures show that on average 23,300 people attend Church of England services in Suffolk every week.

The figure is far more than was thought because a new congregation counting system has been introduced which has revealed that numbers had been under-estimated by as much as one-third in the past.

National statistics published this week show that 57,600 people went to Christmas services in Suffolk, and 32,500 attended Easter celebrations.

The average figure works out at 23,300 attending services each week – of these 19,900 regularly go to church on Sunday.

"These are very encouraging figures," said Nick Clarke, communications director for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

"They show that for many thousands of people across Suffolk, the worship of God and his son Jesus Christ is a regular part of their lives with almost one in ten of the county's population going to church at Christmas."

The figures, collected in 2000, show that 2,010 infants and adults were baptised in the county during the year, clergy solemnised 990 marriages and blessed 120 more and they conducted 3,330 funerals.

"Because of the way these figures have been collected and collated, it is not possible to compare them to anything that has gone before," says Mr Clarke.

"They would seem to show that we have previously underestimated the numbers going to church each year but real trends will only begin to emerge as the figures for a number of years become available."

The Church of England brought in a new more rigorous data collection system in 2000 which has provided proof that the Church has been under-counting its worshippers.

Nationally the church is not saying that the figures show an increase in church-going, but simply a more reliable measure of how many people worship weekly.

The statistics showed an average 1.06 million people of all ages went to Church of England services on Sundays in 2000 across the country.

Head of research and statistics, the Rev Lynda Barley said the figures would be a new bench-mark by which the church could measure itself in the future.

WEBLINK: www.stedmundsbury.anglican.org

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