Empty pews fuel fears of a crisis

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HALIFAX Minster has dismissed fears that the Church of England will no longer be able to function in 20 years’ time.

The alarming statement was made at the General Synod in York this week.

During the last 40 years the number of adult worshippers has halved and 80 per cent fewer children are attending services.

The average age of members is now 61 and synod member the Rev Patrick Richmond, of Norwich, warned of a crisis.

He said: “2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage – that is, people dying”.

He said projections suggested the church would no longer be functionally extant in 20 years.

Halifax Minster churchwarden and Calderdale councillor John Hardy said the age profile did not apply at the minster, which attracted young families and the elderly.

But he said churches of all denominations had been going through a difficult time since the 1960s.

“People’s attitudes to life have changed and part of that is the abandonment of religion,” he said.

“But, I am optimistic. It’s a broad statement to say the church is in crisis, but equally it is not as it was a few years ago.

“There will always be a place for religious belief.”

Councillor Hardy, 67, said morals were very different from when he was young which was evident by how people behaved on the streets and in society generally.

“That is part of the dilution of religion but our congregation holds up fairly well and we have people from all over Calderdale,” he said.

He believed most people wanted to see the church survive – the problem was they didn’t want to be part of the mainstream involved in it.

The Vicar of Halifax, Canon Hilary Barber said it was a recognised national issue to attract more people.

“Quite clearly there are some churches that are dying and other churches that are alive and well,” he said.

“But look at Halifax – we have 120 people here of mixed ages on a Sunday.”