Church buildings visited by almost half of the public29 January 2015 | by Joanna Moorhead
Almost one in two British adults has been to a church in the past year, with attending a religious service being the reason for getting for a third of visits, according to the results of a new poll.
They reveal that, of the 45 per cent of Britons who had been to a church in the last 12 months, 28 per cent had been for a religious service. Tourist trips accounted for 19 per cent of the visits, and attendances at non-religious community activities, including playgroups, cultural and social events, and other meetings, made up another 13 per cent.
The poll, carried out for the National Churches Trust, also found that it is not only believers who visit places of worship. Three in five (60 per cent) Christians, two in five (40 per cent) British adults from non-Christian religions and more than a quarter (27 per cent) of those who do not consider themselves a member of any religion say they have visited a church or chapel building for one reason or another over the last year.
The poll, of just more than 2,000 people, also found that 79 per cent believe churches and chapels are an important part of the United Kingdom’s heritage and history. The trust hopes to focus attention on the battle to keep churches open despite declining congregations: the issue is due to come up for discussion at the Church of England General Synod in a fortnight’s time.
Three quarters of British people (74 per cent) say church buildings play an important role by providing a space for community activities such as playgroups and cultural and social events, and other meetings. And it is not only churchgoing Britons who hold that view: the research found that 67n per cent of Britons of non-Christian religions, and 64n per cent of non-believers, felt church buildings had an important community role.
Chief executive of the National Churches Trust Claire Walker said that, with the numbers of active churchgoers falling in parts of the country, question marks were being raised over the future of some of the UK’s church buildings, and closures were taking place in some areas.
“But … in good repair and with the right facilities to allow greater community use, churches and chapels can continue to play a vital role in the life and well-being of the nation for many, many years to come,” said Ms Walker.
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