Friday, November 11, 2016

Statistics and Cathedral Worship

As regular readers (hi Mum) know, I am a great consumer of statistics. I am no expert but one thing that bugs me above all else is when conclusions are drawn from numbers which are simply opinion.

So now the church attendance figures recently released for 2015 (we're getting faster at this, believe it or not) show that attendance at cathedral worship is up compared with many other places where a downwards trend is observed.

And immediately one or two lazy commentators suggest that this proves that modern forms of worship are failing and we should all get back in the cloisters.

It does no such thing. In fact what we see on the ground is a number of very small evening congregations being wound up due to a shortage of organists, choir-masters, choir and indeed congregation. I should just have said 'everything' but I'm a sucker for merism ladies and gentlemen.

As they wind up, some people choose to worship at other times and other places; a number simply drift away, but a few, who were mainly attracted by choral evensong, find their way to the nearest cathedral. Up go the numbers.

It should be our expectation that as things get rarer the finest expressions of them survive the longest and attract the most attention. No conclusions beyond that can be drawn.

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