Recession gets people flocking to church

MORE people in Suffolk are heading to church to seek solace at a time when the country is gripped by a recession, it was claimed today.

MORE people in Suffolk are heading to church to seek solace at a time when the country is gripped by a recession, it was claimed today.

Attendance at churches across the country was generally up at Christmas but after the festive season finished, many have not returned.

However a Suffolk clergyman believes the picture in our county is different - with his church in particular bucking the trend with a marked increase in the number of attendees each week.

Reverend Michael Eden believes that the rise in parishioners at St Peter and St Mary's Church in Stowmarket could be down to people's disillusionment with material possessions and their struggle in the economic climate.

He said: “We had an increase in numbers at Christmas, which was possibly due to our Christmas tree festival, and we have kept that record attendance. This year so far, every attendance has been up on last year so there has been a very definite increase in visitors of all ages.

“(The recession) gets people to ask their own questions about what is important in life. Maybe we cannot put so much trust in material things and therefore people are looking for something greater.

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“I think most people think there is a god so if you want to know more, then where better to come to than church?”

Reverend Sam Cowley, the vicar of the Witnesham, Westerfield and Tuddenham parishes, believes the church can be the place where people turn to in their time of need.

He said: “The church is for the people and the people are there to worship god. What we want to get across is the church has something to offer people and they can get out of it what they want.”

Nick Clarke, communications director for the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: “There are churches in every community in Suffolk which are open and welcoming to people who perhaps do not go to church that often.”

Latest statistics show that on average, weekly attendance for the 479 churches throughout the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich in 2007 was 19,600, which is down from the previous year when 20,700 people attended per week. However, the figures for 2008 and early 2009 have still to be published.

Overall the Church of England has seen a decrease in the numbers of parishioners, from 1,163,000 in 2006 to 1,160,000 per week in 2007.

Have you started to go to church because of the recession? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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