If you want the grisly figures, Linda Woodhead, the sociologist of religion, has them; or the website Counting Religion in Britain. The most obvious cause for concern about the CofE is not numbers but demographics. A recent study, The Last Active Anglican Generation, (OUP, 2017, £50 – so one to get from a library), is a study of Anglican laywomen from what the author calls Generation A (born in the twenties and thirties) in the UK and North America. Among its observations is something called pew power, viz, the notion of power over the institution wielded by ordinary congregations and parish workers – as opposed to leading from the front, the institutional stuff. But the point of it is in the title.
The unfortunate thing about Generation A is that it’s diminishing by the year, as its members go to their eternal reward, for a lifetime of church fetes, flower arranging, keeping the keys for empty churches and turning up, Sunday after Sunday. So, I have a simple proposal for the cultural Christians who agonise about the rise of Islam and the vanishing Christian character of Britain: go to church. Take the place of Generation A. Turn up for Easter Sunday as well as Christmas; keep Pentecost Sunday, because hardly anyone now knows what Whit Sunday stands for, and Ascension Thursday. There are lots of churches out there, you know: Anglicans in cities are spoiled for choice, and you can’t throw a brick in places like Norfolk without landing on something fabulous from the fifteenth century. Anglicans have, moreover, for those that seek it out, the loveliest liturgy, and you don’t deserve it. There are rubbish clergy, of course, but, you know, it’s possible to separate your feelings about the thing that’s being celebrated from the celebrant (Catholics are quite good at this). So, get out there. The numbers attending Anglican services fell below a million at the beginning of last year; they’re still falling.
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