Church of England Cathedrals figures for 2021 show recovery amid Covid-19 measures
29 March 2023
Latest worshipping and visitor data collected from England’s 42 cathedrals and Westminster Abbey during 2021 shows show attendance began to recover despite ongoing Covid-19 measures.
Increased in-person attendance, which had been severely impacted in 2020, reflected the vaccine rollout, and the easing of Covid-19 restrictions throughout the year, though it also showed that many people chose to stay away from public indoor spaces especially during those periods when restrictions remained in place, and during the late autumn that saw the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the data showed a weekly total of 15,800 people were reported at cathedral services in 2021. This is a 22 per cent more than the equivalent figure from 2020, although still 58 per cent below the 2019 figure.
Meanwhile, the number of cathedrals offering online worship in addition to, or augmenting in-person services remained high, with 94 per cent of cathedrals continuing to offer this.
Weddings showed the closest return to pre-pandemic numbers with 230 marriages conducted in cathedrals during 2021, 93 per cent of the figure from 2019, and an increase of 250 per cent from the 2020 total.
During 2021, there were a total of 320 baptisms conducted in all Church of England cathedrals. This was 43% of the equivalent figure in 2019, but a 242 per cent increase on the total number of baptisms that took place in cathedrals in 2020.
The total number of visitors to the cathedrals was just under half of the equivalent figure from the 2019 figure, reflecting the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
Volunteering has been one of the few areas of cathedral life that has not shown signs of recovery in 2021. The number of people volunteering in cathedrals has decreased by a further 21 per cent from the 2020 figure.
The Dean of Canterbury, David Monteith, who Chairs the College of Deans, said;
“It is encouraging to see the beginning of recovery in our cathedrals in 2021 even amid the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.Church of England cathedrals have been an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage for over a thousand years, and they continue to serve as places of worship, community gathering, and tourism. The data from 2021 demonstrates the resilience of the cathedrals and their importance to local communities in the face of adversity.
We have adapted to the changing circumstances throughout the pandemic, and some of what we have learnt is here to stay. This includes the gift of online worship, with many cathedrals reaching new congregations, together with those who would prefer to join services from home.
As we look to the future, and continued recovery, we remain committed to supporting our whole communities, particularly those in need, providing a place of worship, prayer and sanctuary for all.”