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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 December, 2004, 09:37 GMT
Cities 'shun church at Christmas'
Manchester Cathedral
Manchester has the lowest Christmas church attendance
Churches in England's biggest cities see a "meagre" rise in attendance at Christmas, while it leaps 200% in rural areas, according to a study.

Manchester had fewest churchgoers, followed by Liverpool, London, Sheffield, Bradford and Birmingham, a survey of Anglican dioceses found.

Hereford diocese had the most, with 10% of residents in church, five times as many as Manchester.

The survey was conducted by Dr David Voas from the University of Manchester.

Manchester's Anglican churches attracted only an extra 19% of visitors over Christmas, it found.

Dr Voas said: "Barely 2% of people in Manchester make it to an Anglican church on Christmas Eve or Day, and practically all those who do go are regular worshippers.

"Whatever people are doing about God, they don't do it in church.

"Urban culture encourages people who are doing their own thing."

He also found Guildford was the area most likely to see a boost in church numbers from "Christmas tourists" - people who are not regular churchgoers but like "mixing a little ceremony into their festivities".

Reverend Robert Cotton, of Guildford's St Mary's Church, told BBC News: "We see a lot of people coming in that we don't see throughout the rest of the year, but that's very good.

"It's far better that people come once a year than they don't come at all."

He said St Mary's held extra events aimed at attracting people who were not regular churchgoers, such as midday carol services for people shopping and working in the city.

His survey, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found Hereford, Salisbury, Guildford, Bath and Wells and Gloucester dioceses topped the table for highest Christmas church attendance.

Is a visit to church an important part of Christmas? Why does it not feature in more people's celebrations? Submit your views using the form below.

Christmas is too comercialised. There are no Christmas messages given out by the media, it is all advertising by companies selling toys, etc.
Kevin Briggs, Newport, Shropshire

What is the point of Christmas if we do not celebrate the real meaning? The secular society we live in pushes families, Jesus and Christmas into as small a time as possible, e.g. by opening shops on Boxing Day. What does that say - all out happiness and fulfillment can be found in spending, spending, spending? Let us start to stop and think about our values in life, before it's too late.
Penny, Bedford

Religion is an anachronism with no future in the modern world. Time to let it die off peacefully.
LJS, Stockport

I do not think this survey reveals anything new. It is neither an indication of church popularity at Christmas time (its study of the Anglican church only prevents this), or an indication of people's spiritual awareness at Christmas.
Paul, Manchester

This survey makes the common mistake of confusing the Church of England with the church in England. Surveys regularly show that there are more Anglican attenders in the countryside, but, in fact, a higher proportion of people go to church in the cities. It's just that they go to the competition - Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc.
David Flavell, Hexham, Northumberland

Here in the suburbs of Manchester, in a non-Anglican church, in recent years over the Christmas period we have experienced double the normal number of worshippers. It is a myth that people no longer want to attend church.
Dave Martin, Cheadle Hulme

People in rural areas go to church at this time of year for the community and festivities, not to worship. In many rural areas, the church is all people have got. As your article explains, the church is trying all kinds of gimmicks to attract people - not a great advert for a "Christian nation".
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK

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BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why southerners fill the pews over Christmas




SEE ALSO:
Public 'less committed to church'
12 Dec 04 |  North Yorkshire


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