Senior Church leaders from across Scotland have agreed that it is time to hold another Scottish Church Census. It will take place on 12th May 2002, with all denominations taking part.
Changes in church life and in society have accelerated in recent years, and church leaders believe it is important to find out now how these are impacting church attendance.
The Census will ask for the first time in Scotland about frequency of attendance. It will also measure midweek church attendance, as well as trying to find out how many people come to church events but do not actually attend worship services. Results are expected to show that a much higher total number of people go to church regularly than are actually present on any one Sunday.
Archbishop O'Brien of the Roman Catholic Church says, "The information gained from the Church Census is invaluable in helping us to plan ahead. By obtaining a snapshot of every congregation in Scotland we are able, in some sense, to take the spiritual temperature of the nation".
"We know that membership statistics on communion rolls do not give a full picture of the life of the Church", says Right Reverend John Miller, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. "Many people are involved in worship and service whose names do not appear on the register. This third Scottish Census provides an excellent opportunity of gathering information which is accurate, relevant and useful. I commend it warmly".
The 2002 Census will be undertaken by Dr Peter Brierley of Christian Research, who did both the previous Scottish Church Censuses in 1984 and 1994, as well as ones in other parts of the United Kingdom. The results of the 1998 English Church Attendance Survey have been important in helping to frame the questions to ask in Scotland in 2002.
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