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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Sunday worship in decline
Church service
Congregation sizes have been dropping

Only one in 10 people in Scotland go to church on a Sunday, according to the latest figures.

The number of people worshipping regularly at the Church of Scotland has fallen by 22% in the last eight years.

And the Catholic Church also reported a steep decline in congregation sizes, with attendance down by 19% in the same period.

But most clergymen are still optimistic that attendance will pick up, even in the absence of any national strategy to tackle the problem.

Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney said the decline was due to long-term, fundamental changes in society.

Many people have what they would consider faith, but do not necessarily go to church regularly
Peter Kearney,
Catholic church spokesman

"Against the backdrop of a more secular, materialistic society, this is probably not surprising," he said.

"The idea of faith and belief today is not just about weekly attendance.

"Many people have what they would consider faith, but do not necessarily go to church regularly."

The situation was revealed in a census of over 4,000 Scottish churches of all Christian denominations.

In total, just over 11% of Scots, or just over 570,000, attended church on an average Sunday in 2002.

Of these, just under 230,000 were protestants and 200,000 were catholics.

The decline in popularity of these two denominations, which account for three-quarters of all Scottish churchgoers, contrasts sharply with the fortunes of the Pentecostal church and the Salvation Army.

Around 11% more people went to Pentecostal services than in 1998, while the Salvation Army posted an 8% rise in the same period.

Church roadshows

Churchgoing is also more common in remote areas such as the Western Isles and Skye and Lochalsh, where nearly 40% of the population still go to church regularly.

Mr Kearney admitted that it would be difficult for churches across the country to get back to achieving those sorts of figures.

But he said that any attempt to increase numbers by updating its style risked alienating existing worshippers.

He said: "Any idea of churches modernising would defeat the purpose of what people want from it which is something firm and unchanging."

In a bid to develop a strategy to tackle the situation, the Scottish churches will stage a series of roadshows around the country in September and October.

The meetings, which will be open to all, will be led by clergy and will take place in cities including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

BBC Scotland's Elizabeth Quigley
"In 1984, 850,000 Scots were going to church on a Sunday"

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