ANNUAL statistics from the Church of England have revealed Portsmouth has seen the second highest drop in attendance.
Portsmouth was the second worst-performing diocese for average weekly church service attendance after an 8.2 per cent drop, the Church of England’s annual statistics have shown.
The diocese also saw a 7.8 per cent fall in average Sunday attendance.
The diocese of Canterbury, where the Archbishop of Canterbury presides, experienced the highest drop in both categories with 9.5 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Portsmouth said: ‘We are disappointed with the fall in average weekly attendance, but it should be measured against an increase the previous year of six per cent.
‘These figures are counted each October and of course can go up or down depending on whether churches happen to be holding services that tend to attract more worshippers, such as harvest festivals, family services and baptisms.
‘Over the past few years, Portsmouth diocese has experienced both increases and decreases in this headline figure.
‘We were pleased that the figure for Christmas Day 2011 showed attendance was up by more than 10 per cent on 2010.
‘More than 44,000 people were in our churches to celebrate Jesus’ birth that day – 4,200 more than the previous year.
‘The initial evidence seems to point to increases again for Christmas Day 2012 across the country.
‘These figures relate to attendance in 2011.
‘Since then, our diocese has devoted £100,000 of its annual budget in both 2012 and 2013 on dozens of projects that aim to increase the size of our congregations and deepen their spiritual life.
‘These include a youth project in Havant, Bedhampton and West Leigh, Messy Church in Copnor, Ryde and Wickham, a new youth minister in Liphook, an alternative worship project in Gosport, and chaplaincy for further education colleges in Portsmouth.
‘The impact a parish is having on its local community is only partly measured by the number of people in church for Sunday or midweek services.
‘Our churches are at the heart of their local communities, hosting events, running activities for people of all ages and providing practical help to the disadvantaged.’