Record numbers attend England's cathedrals at Christmas

More people than ever are choosing to celebrate Christmas at one of England's cathedrals, new figures show.

York Minster at Christmas 2016
York Minster at Christmas 2016

Some 135,000 worshippers attended a traditional service last year – an increase of three per cent on the previous Christmas and the highest total since records began, the Church of England said.

Year-round attendance on Sundays was also said to be holding steady, and weekday congregations continued to grow, with just over 18,000 attending last year compared to only 7,000 when the first data was recorded, at the beginning of the Millennium.

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Over the last decade, the total number attending all regular services in cathedrals has increased by 10 per cent.

However, the number is small compared to those visiting as tourists, with more than 10m sightseeing at the country’s 42 mainland cathedrals and Westminster Abbey. The buildings also reported having around 1,000 more volunteers last year than in 2016.

The Church said cathedrals continued to be “centres of civic life”, with 1.3m people reported at 5,300 public services, graduation ceremonies and other events.

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, who is the Church’s spokesman on cathedrals, said the buildings continued to hold “enormous appeal to worshippers and visitors”.

He said: “Christmas is a natural opportunity for people to reconnect with their church or cathedral, and the growth in numbers of those doing so over the past ten years is very encouraging.”

As an example of the church moving with the times, Dr Inge said it would promote the Christmas story this year with a hashtag – #FollowTheStar – on Twitter.

Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield and chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals, said: “Cathedrals aren’t complacent about what opportunities lie before them, but these statistics accurately portray where they are making an impact and what they are trying to do.”

Dr Eve Poole, who leads the Church of England’s Cathedrals’ Support Group, said: “This report reminds us of the broad appeal of these special places at the heart of our cities.”