Empty pews: have you got the answers?

I WOULD be grateful if Irish Examiner readers could help with a study to discover why churchgoing is on the decline throughout Ireland and Britain.

Attendance has been in steady decline in mainstream denominations since the 1960s, making Ireland and the UK different from most of the rest of the world where church attendance has continued to grow.

No satisfactory answer has been found for this. For example, the idea that church decline was due to growing scientific knowledge has been made invalid by US statistics.

The US is the most advanced scientific nation on earth, and yet in some states church attenders now make up almost 50% of the population.

The suggestion that decline was the result of wealth was also disproven by these statistics because the US is the richest country in the world. And the idea that more awareness of 'world suffering' was putting people off the churches failed to explain why churchgoing is often strongest in parts of the world where major suffering occurs.

Irish Examiner readers are invited to answer the following:

(1) If you attend a church regularly, what are the main things which encourage you to attend? If you attend merely out of a 'sense of duty,' what could be changed to make it more appealing?

(2) If you were a churchgoer, but now attend infrequently or not at all, what were the main things which led to this decline? What could be changed in order for you to attend regularly again?

(3) If you've never been a churchgoer what things would encourage you to begin?

(4) The traditional custom of 'clergy visiting' has declined despite the maxim, "a house-going minister makes a church-going people." Although a number of factors have led to dwindling congregations, do you think the demise of this customary role is significant?

Please send your views to the address below, marking your envelope "Church Survey."

The Rev J Willans, BD, Dip Theol,

The Vicarage,

Clayhill Road,

Leigh,

Surrey RH2 8PD,

England.

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