There are two reports of competing trends in British church attendance in the news today. Evensong attendance is up, driven by growth in interest by atheists and the unchurched. Cathedral tourism is down for a number of reasons including admission fees.
Why are thousands of people who’ve never set foot in church before suddenly showing up for choral evensong? – Christian Today (annoying audio ad at link)
Thousands of people are turning out to hear free choral music around Britain, many for the first time.
The ancient church music has been around for centuries – but is getting a new audience due to a new website set up to enable people to find choral evensong services at cathedrals, colleges and churches anywhere in Britain and Ireland.
The website is now receiving about 8,500 unique visitors a month, and 11,500 visits a month, and that number is rising. There are now 505 churches, chapels and cathedrals with their own pages on the website, and the number keeps growing.
And the effect on congregations is staggering.
Some hyperbole, perhaps.
Meanwhile, Visitor Attraction Trends in England 2016 reports cathedral tourism is down.
Sharp drop in visitor numbers to churches and cathedrals – Church Times
No single reason has emerged as to why churches and cathedrals could be struggling to attract visitors. The fear of terrorism, rising entry fees, a post-London Olympics lull, and different ways of counting have all been suggested.
The decline is also reflected in the accounts: places of worship were the attractions in the Visit England report to report a fall in gross revenue, one per cent down on the previous 12 months.
“The fall in admissions for places of worship was largely driven by a few big sites based in London,” the Visit England report states.
Westminster Abbey has experienced particular decline in visitor numbers in recent years. In 2013, helped by the Olympics, the Abbey welcomed more than two million visitors. By 2016, that figure had almost halved to 1.2 million, a 28-per-cent drop from 2015.
St Paul’s Cathedral was also hit.