Buildings and Quiet Spaces

2016 Scottish Church Census

April 17, 2017

The Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church says:

“The results of the 2016 Scottish Church Census are on some levels entirely predictable. Historic institutional churches are in decline across the developed world, particularly when seen against the ‘narrow band’ measurement of church attendance. The processes of secularisation are systemic in modern societies and are rooted in factors such as population mobility, an individualism which leads to a reluctance to commit and ever-widening ranges of choice. While we may wonder at the apparent success of churches in the developing world, the same inexorable process of change will in time have a similar effect on them as our societies become more globalised.

“The challenge for faith communities in Scotland and elsewhere is to find ways in which churches can learn to survive and thrive in this kind of social context. Social change – and the Holy Spirit – are creating a situation where the status quo is no longer a ‘safe option’ and the challenge of change is unavoidable.

“Of all the factors which have led to decline, one of the most obvious is a generational failure. The children and grandchildren of today’s churchgoers have not followed them into active membership.

“But it is not all bad news or cries of ‘crisis’. The results of the 2016 Scottish Church Census offer some encouragement to churches. There is a slowing of decline and some signs of recovery.

“If we are to ‘survive and thrive’, the way ahead will require prayerful faithfulness with hard work. It will need visionary and skilled leadership. It will be a long but also a rewarding road. Churches will look very different. Some suggest that there are particular values which will bring growth. But there is no alternative to a path of spiritual faithfulness lived with an outward-facing commitment to growth and with integrity of life, community and service. I believe that many congregations in the Scottish Episcopal Church are already on that journey.

“Churches offer community and belonging in an age of individualism. They encourage people to explore the deepest issues of life in times which often seem troubled and alarming. Institutional patterns of religion may not hold the loyalty which they did in the past – but people everywhere are on journeys of spiritual exploration and yearn for spiritual experience.

“In recent times, the Scottish Episcopal Church has had a renewed focus on mission. We are developing outward-facing, welcoming and inclusive patterns of congregational life and offer attractive worship and engaging presentations of faith. We care for those in need and we have a passion for justice.”

Read the Scottish Church Census report here