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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 08:16 GMT
Rich 'more likely to attend church'
Church minister
Church attendance in richer areas is on the rise
People living in prosperous areas of England are more likely to go to church than those in poorer communities, new figures have revealed.

Although attendance at Christian churches of all denominations is declining, attendance is flourishing in some areas, according to the Christian Research (CR) charity.

It said most of the growth has been seen in London and the south east, where almost one in 10 people attend Sunday services, compared to just under 6% in the "coalfields".

It believes the differences have arisen because people moving into richer areas see church attendance as a way to get involved in their new community.

You have richer people being invited to church, going along and liking it

Dr Peter Brierley
Christian Research
Dr Peter Brierley, executive director of CR, which has just published the third edition of Religious Trends, said he believed the findings were partly motivated by class.

He said: "In some of the most prosperous areas there is a mobile population with people moving in.

"Those people want to become part of the community and the church allows them to do that.

"You have richer people being invited to church, going along and liking it."

Dr Brierley said church attendance had been hit in poorer areas because people had lost their faith as a result of their circumstances.

He said: "Many churches have the perception of being of being middle class and many of the coalfield areas are not.

"Many of the coalfields are also in depressed areas."

'Scots are more concerned'

CR's findings, which cover the period 1989 to 1998 also reveal that 13.4% of people in Scotland attend church, almost twice the level for England and Wales - 7.4%.

"The Scots are more concerned with religion," Dr Brierley added. "They take it very seriously. The church has formed part of the national consciousness."

Although one in five churches in England saw their congregation grow over the period 65% saw theirs decline, while 14% remained static.

The study revealed the number of women ministers increased from 8.3% in 1995 to 10.4% in 2000.

It also found that 67% of the population believe in God and 52% in heaven, while 49% believe Jesus was the son of God.

See also:

14 Jun 01 | Education
Church of England schools to expand
28 Nov 00 | UK
UK is 'losing' its religion
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