18 Months In

At the beginning of 2017 Peter looked back at the statistics for the services from 24 July to 25 December 2016. At the beginning of 2018 he looked at the period from 25 July to 31 December 2017, and this is the report he gave to the Parochial Church Councils in January.

8 am Holy Communion – fortnightly at each church. The average congregation at St Edmund’s is 9 (max 14 on a fifth Sunday when it was the only service, min 7), at St Matthew’s is 8 (max 12, min 5). St Matthew’s has stayed the same, St Edmund’s has reduced by 2. Last year I wrote “The easiest way to grow this service would be if some (any) of those who drive to AL one week drove to DA the other week, and vica versa”. That has not happened. I used to take three of these services a month, and John Rice did the fourth – now I do all of them. Part of me says the quiet start to the morning is what I need, another part of me says I am wearing myself out, and it is time to end 8 am services. I have a Ministry Development Review in March, and will discuss it with my reviewer. We will make a decision in early autumn.

The 10 am services at St Matthew’s have seen an increase in attendance. The fortnightly communions have risen from an average of 58 to an average of 71 (perhaps slewed slightly by one communion with baptism which had 138 people). The monthly Service of the Word has risen from 48 to 51. All Age has remained static, with an average of 55 people. Kid’s Church is doing very well, but we need to work at getting them involved in All Age.

The 10 am services at St Edmund’s have seen a decrease. The communions have an average attendance of 66 (79 last year), skewed somewhat by the maximum of 88 on Remembrance Sunday and the minimum of only 22 when it snowed. All Age Worship has an average of 82, down from 89 – although a reduction in the numbers at the Christingle (down from 120 to 87) may well affect this average. The monthly Service of the Word has remained stable, with an average of 57. We do have new people worshipping, and people worshipping more regularly – but the growth is hidden by the number who have died, are unable to come to church, or who attend less regularly.

The monthly 11.15 Communion at St Matthew’s has remained static at 21. The two 11.15 services at St Edmund’s continue to decline. In 2016 they were attended by an average of 19 people (which includes choir, server and cleric), in 2017 the number has dropped to an average of 13. I noted last year that, according to John Rice’s figures, in 2002 the average attendance was 38. I also said that “We are one of the few churches to still offer Choral BCP services, so perhaps we should try and advertise them more widely across the Deanery? We need additional help to lead them, so can we try and find a Reader or Retired Cleric from elsewhere? The choir needs more voices – how can we find them?” I advertised the services and asked for help through the Deanery newsletter – it has made no difference. Numbers in the choir have continued to decline. It is more of a struggle now to find a cleric to take the Communion – while I am one of the rare clerics who likes the Book of Common Prayer, when I have to dash back from the 10 at St Matthew’s for my third communion of the morning, I don’t arrive full of enthusiasm. Deborah takes Mattins, but if she is away it is led by a Choir Cantor. I would ask all PCC members to make the effort to experience different services over the next six months, so we can have a sensible discussion (perhaps at the July PCC) as to what our future service pattern should be.

Both churches have evening services. At St Edmund’s the average attendance is 17 (down from 20). If there is no choir, the average attendance at St Matthew’s is 9, but there were excellent congregations for Faure on Remembrance Sunday, the Advent Procession and other choral services.

I said last year that “the 9.30 service on a Wednesday morning at St Edmund’s has now moved to 10 am, and is now followed by coffee. Numbers have been steadily rising and are now nearly always in double figures.” The average has been 15 – very pleasing. A very few people (now just 1 or 2) meet for prayer on a Saturday morning – Peter is not awake at 8 am!

We continue to have United Services on the 5th Sunday. July at St Matthew’s 84, Oct at St Edmund’s 112, Dec at St Matthew’s 97. Thank you for that coming together.

Christmas was good in both churches. St Edmund’s Christingle was down, Carols in the Churchyard was great (108), a traditional evening Carol Service (up by 3 to 123), two Crib Services on Christmas Eve (402 in total), Midnight Mass (down to 63) and Christmas morning (8 at 8, 67 at 10). In St Matthew’s there was a Village Carols (with our choir and Walter Evans school – no one counted, but it seemed well filled), a morning Carol Service (95, down from 107), a Christmas Eve Crib Service (282), Midnight (55) and Christmas morning (44).

Occasional offices – in 2017 we did 19 baptisms at St Edmund’s and 9 at St Matthew’s. 9 weddings at St Edmund’s and 4 at St Matthew’s – there are 4 for St Edmund’s and 14 for St Matthew’s in 2018. Funerals – 18 at St Edmund’s, 6 at St Matthew’s and 24 at the Crematorium, (The 2014 figures were Baptisms 12 + 20, Weddings 4 + 10, Funerals 20, 8 and 14). I hope that an Administrator will be able to help with the follow-up – these are great opportunities for outreach, and we must use them better.