A new report shows that Easter Day churchgoing in Canterbury Diocese has recovered to 94% of pre-pandemic levels. Research has found that on site attendance was at 81% and when you added online, or 'Church at Home' worship, the figure became 94%.
Churches in four dioceses (Canterbury, Lichfield, Oxford and Rochester) were invited to register their Easter Day attendance figures online immediately after Easter to give an early indication of attendance patterns and trends compared with 2019. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many churches found themselves closed for long periods of time - and when they were able to reopen, they needed to observe Covid-19 guidelines up until February 2022.
The world of church attendance changed considerably over this period, with churches finding new and creative ways to facilitate 'Church at Home'. Although some churches used printed materials, emails and phones, most offered some form of online service. Many of these began with clergy simply using mobile phones and laptops in their vicarages and live-streaming worship and prayers to Facebook. By Easter 2022, however, the dominant format was livestreaming of onsite services via YouTube.
Steve Coneys, Mission and Growth Adviser for Canterbury Diocese said: “This is an enormously helpful report and gives us a realistic indication of the shape of worship and church attendance post-pandemic. We are so grateful to all those churches who responded to our request to send their Easter Day figures much earlier than usual.
“These statistics only show us a small part of the bigger picture as we know that lots more people will have engaged in worship and events with our churches over the wider Easter period. It's also worth noting that Covid-19 levels were still quite high in England during this time and many people will have avoided church because of this.
"One of our rural benefices offered Church at Home by streaming services to YouTube from one of their churches. They had 30 views on Easter Day, which our researchers estimated was likely to represent 45 people. As the church in question managed to increase its Easter Day on site attendance by one from 2019, this meant those ‘at church’ increased by 70%."
Across the four dioceses, (and with a 50% response rate from churches) the main findings were:
- Average onsite attendance for Easter Day was 75% of 2019
- The usual form of ‘Church at Home’ (via live streaming or pre-recorded services) is now online through YouTube
- The fall in onsite attendance in churches also offering ‘Church at Home’ was the same as other churches. However, those who didn’t offer online worship had 79% of their 2019 attendance compared to 107% for those who did both - people don’t use it as a substitute, rather an addition to traditional worship
- The number of churches offering Church at Home has been decreasing - but even at Easter 2022 nearly 60% of Anglicans had an online option available to them from their own church
- If online and in-person Church attendance figures are combined, total Easter Day attendance was about the same as at Easter 2019
- Smaller churches appear to have recovered their onsite attendance better than larger churches
- Although online attendance is significantly down on from the Covid-19 lockdown peak, some well-known churches and cathedrals with a national or regional reach have maintained large online congregations
- The experience of individual churches varies hugely – onsite attendance in many churches was much lower than in 2019 and much higher in others
The full four-diocese report can be accessed online here and the Canterbury-focused report can be found here.
This report has been made possible by CPAS which exists to help every person in the UK and Republic of Ireland to hear and discover the good news of Jesus Christ through the ministry of local churches.