Church of Ireland to conduct second census of attendance
Survey in 2013 found average of 15.5% of church population went to Sunday services
Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke: “Although there were few shocks in what we learned, it was by any standards a necessary reality check.” Photograph: LiamMcArdle.com
The Church of Ireland will undertake a second census of its worshipping population throughout the island next month.
Over each Sunday in November its clergy and parish officials will provide worshippers with a card on which they will be asked to indicate, anonymously, their gender and age.
One objective of the census is to help the church make decisions for the future, based on an up-to-date analysis of its population. It will also allow parishes and dioceses to collect their own more detailed figures if they wish.
The first such census was carried out in 2013 and found that the average attendance over three Sundays in November that year was 58,000 people, or 15.5 per cent of the Church of Ireland population as recorded in 2011 census returns for the Republic and Northern Ireland. Just 13 per cent of worshippers were young people aged between 12 and 30.
Commenting on those findings at the church’s general synod last year, Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke said that “although there were few shocks in what we learned, it was by any standards a necessary reality check”.
The 2013 figures presented “the scale of the missional challenge ahead of us as a church, but nevertheless it is one that if we cannot embrace with confidence and with hope in Jesus Christ, we may as well close the doors of our churches now. We must relate to reality, and we must also relate to the future ahead of us, a future towards which God is always calling us.”
He also said that in 2019 “the Church of Ireland will be marking, and, I hope, celebrating 150 years since its disestablishment in the summer of 1869. One of my deepest hopes is that we may also undertake two major projects that will have reached fruition by then, or at least be in the final stages of completion by that point.”
One would involve drawing up a new constitution for the church, as the current one was “to say the least, abstruse”, he said.
It is anticipated that another census will be held by the church in 2021 to coincide with census returns that year in the Republic and Northern Ireland.