23 September 2010

New stats reveal changing nature of the Methodist Church in Britain

The Methodist Church has released statistics which reveal the diversity of its congregations across Britain.

For the very first time, the Church's Statistics for Mission Report features data on language, ethnicity, Fresh Expressions and the number of churchgoers engaged in children and youth ministry.

The report showed that at least 89 churches ran worship or fellowship in a language other than English or Welsh in 2009. Among the languages spoken were Afrikaans, Akan, Cantonese, Portuguese, Lingala, Eritrean, Farsi, Fijian, French, Ga, Hindi, Korean, Ibo, Indian, Kerala, Krio, Malayalam, Mandarin, Mende, Filipino, Punjabi, Shona, Yoruba, Swahili, Tamil, Twi, Fanti, Urdu, Vietnamese and Zimbabwean languages.

Revd John Chambers, a minister at Walworth Methodist Church in London, said: "We have four fellowships in our church: Sierra Leone, Ghanaian, Zimbabwean and Nigerian. During the year, each fellowship will hold a service; parts of which will be given in a language that many people in the Church will understand.

"It's great because it acknowledges the diverse nature of our church. Holding fellowships in this way has helped our church to grow. We have 500 members. People will come to our church knowing that their ethnic tradition will be acknowledged."

The report also provided more detail on local Fresh Expressions than has ever been collected before, identifying 893 Methodist fresh expressions. Cafe Church, Messy Church, Third Place and cell group were the most popular.

A count charting Methodist participation in local ecumenical partnerships demonstrated the high proportions of Methodists in these ecumenical churches. Seven per cent of all Methodists (16,500 people) belong to an ecumenical congregation.

Dr Christopher Stephens, Research Officer, said: "We are collecting these statistics each year to get an accurate picture of who and what we are as a Church in the 21st century. The report will enable us to support local churches in their mission needs and help congregations do the same. This report reveals that we are diverse and modern. We have a huge number of Fresh Expressions and a wide breadth of worshipping communities.

"I think this report will surprise some readers, including Methodists. It demonstrates clear areas of growth and a rich diversity that may reflect a Methodist Church that is different from the general preconception."

Other stats showed that the Methodist Church carried out 14 of out every 1,000 marriages and 35 out of every 1,000 funerals conducted in Britain last year.

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