The Archbishop of York used his Christmas message to highlight the widespread influence the Church still has today, despite fears that attendance and its standing in society is in decline.
Writing in The Sun, Dr John Sentamu said that an estimated 15 million people in England will go to church on Christmas Day.
He said: “Churchgoing is often associated with words like ‘decline’. But it is still the biggest weekly gathering there is in our country, outstripping combined attendance at football matches every week –and we don’t even get a supplement on Monday with all the best bits!”
The archbishop said the Church of England conducts 1,000 weddings, 2,000 christenings and 3,000 funerals every week, and one million children go to 5,000 CofE schools every day.
The church will support communities over the festive period with food banks, domestic refuges, hospital visits and homeless shelters, Dr Sentamu said.
Inviting people to church and wishing them a happy Christmas, he added: “Faith is woven so deeply into our society that those who seek to write it off are often confounded by the way in which the church is involved in all areas of life.
“The Church is for life and it’s also for Christmas.
“So let me invite you to come and meet the Christ child anew.”
Earlier in the week, Dr Sentamu spoke out on the issue of child poverty and on the need for people in the region to foster stronger ties with their neighbours.