Thinking of going to church? If you are, you are far more likely to consider attend a cathedral service, or a novelty "themed" service than your local church, according to new figures released by the Church of England.
The number of people coming to witness the spectacle of a cathedral service increased last year to 35,800, an increase of 35% in the last decade, despite having one of the worst regular church attendance records in Europe.
The Church said public and civil events, festivals, and school leavers services attracted nearly one million people to visit churches.
Chorister Fraser Steele during a rehearsal at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire
Educational events also bring people into the fold, with 306,800 children attending church-organised events.
Liverpool Cathedral attracts around 100,000 people to services every year, but many come as a one off, for the lighting of the Christmas Tree, carol services, or a Passion Play at Easter performed by local volunteers.
In Ely Cathedral, the clergy run a 'Pet Service' and children come to do arts and crafts and storytelling during school holidays. Ely Cathedral said it was focussed on making the building a "community resource" and screened the Olympic opening ceremony, attended by 700 people.
A spokeswoman for the cathedral said: “These are not just fund raising/money making events. They help bring people into the building, often for the first time, and once they have experienced the Cathedral they may return for a Service or wish to discover more. I think lay events such as these have helped increase overall attendance at our services and other liturgical events in the Cathedral.”
There are 43 cathedrals in the Church of England. Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops’ Council said: “Cathedrals continue to flourish as worshipping communities while offering a valuable insight into our nation’s heritage.
"The statistics show people of all ages are increasingly drawn to cathedrals for worship, to attend educational and civic events, and to volunteer to ensure our cathedrals are open to all those who are drawn to visit and worship in these wonderful buildings.”
This year, the Church of England said it believed it had stabilised the steep drop in attendance at local churches. According to its own figures, average weekly attendances overall fell by 0.3%, to about 1.1 million in 2011.
The diocese where the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England, presides saw the biggest drop in average weekly and Sunday worship figures.