The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Dr Richard Clarke says the Anglican Church must take a long-term approach to its mission in Ireland over the next twenty years which should be based on reality rather than wishful thinking.
The Primate made the comments as the results of a parish-based census, commissioned by the General Synod in 2012 and carried out last November, were released.
The survey shows that average attendance at worship on a ‘usual’ Sunday was 58,000 people – 15 per cent of those reporting as Church of Ireland in the 2011 national Censuses.
Of those attending worship the proportional distribution by age was: 15 per cent aged 0–11; 7 per cent aged 12–18; 6 per cent aged 19–30; 14 per cent aged 31–45; 19 per cent aged 46–60; 24 per cent aged 61–74 and 15 per cent aged 75 plus. Proportional distribution of attendance by gender is 57 per cent female, 43 per cent male.
On Christmas Eve/Day 2012 108,000 people attended worship – 29 per cent of the population; on Easter Day 2013, 76,000 people or 20 per cent of the population attended Church of Ireland worship.
The Census also asked for returns on ‘occasional offices’, figures which show the extent to which the Church of Ireland is involved in key milestones in life: based on returns, 3,700 Baptisms; 2,300 Confirmations; 1,300 Weddings and 3,500 Funerals take place in Church of Ireland churches across the island each year.
Dr Richard Clarke said: “As I conveyed in my address to the General Synod last month, we need to think clearly about ‘long–term’ church and how best to make a positive witness and contribution to the community in all parts of Ireland over, say, the next twenty years.
“It is better to begin this process based on reality rather than wishful thinking. This first–round census data allows us to think about how best to do so, looking to the future by developing strategies based on a realistic assessment of where we stand now. The statistics present the scale of the missional challenge ahead of us, one which we embrace with hope.’”