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Hallo again to all.

Forms and More Forms In many parts of the Anglican Communion, churches and dioceses file an annual report on the number of attendees at worship and all things financial. Wardens, treasurers, and clergy slog through a quagmire of statistics required to complete the forms. It has always reminded us of preparing annual income tax returns or self assessment forms — booklets of directions, items on page four being dependent on what one had entered on page two, looking at the accounts for the past year to glean amounts needed for the different boxes — but much more enjoyable. (It wasn't our records that were being examined!)

A set of statistics that is common to these annual accountings is a variety of differing calculations for average attendance. Some provinces talk of Average Sunday Attendance and others Average Weekly Attendance (total of souls attending services during the year — excluding funerals and weddings — divided by 52 weeks). Some provinces specifically require the clergy to detail attendance at Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.

The report from each parish ends up at its corresponding diocesan office. Each diocese compiles their parishes' reports into a diocesan one. Those are sent to the provincial center and another amalgamation happens. The compiled reports are published. For the Church of England and the two large North American provinces, Canada and the United States (Episcopal Church), they may be found on the web. We know it sounds a bit odd, but we find perusing the data and charts available illuminating. Numbers tell stories as long as one understands their sources.

The Church of England is preparing for a new statistical survey of its churches, Everyone Counts 2014: Growing the church for all. This survey appears to be about feelings and perceptions of people in the parishes. The website says, 'Everyone Counts is a congregational survey with a focus on diversity. In October around one in six churches will take part in the survey, answering a few simple but important questions about how they identify and their connection to the church.'

A different take than body counts at worship, to be sure!

One of our friends is a statistician who has long been championing a new way for churches to look at their role in the community. Attendance at worship, while important, is only one aspect of parish life. In addition to Average Sunday and Weekly Attendance statistics, the new metric being suggested is Average Weekly Usage*. We are Christians working in the mission fields of daily life throughout the week — not just for the hour or two of communal worship we may attend each week. People come onto our parish grounds and enter our buildings for programmes that feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and provide space and programmes like twelve-step recovery groups, Boys & Girls Brigades, and creches. Our parishes help build community spirit through special events, fetes and festivals many of which are held on our grounds or in our buildings. Each of these activities witnesses to our lives as Anglican Christians.

We think Average Weekly Usage is a metric that can show the vibrancy of a parish in a way that Average Sunday Attendance may not.

An example:
In Ferguson Missouri (US), there is an Episcopal parish, St Stephen's, whose 2012 reported statistics show just over 280 baptised members and an Average Worship Attendance of about 80. The parish runs a food pantry, and coordinates or participates in a number of community programmes under the name 'The Vine'. Its importance and reach into the community was very apparent this month after Ferguson erupted in violence.

The food pantry ran out of food, and donations poured in. The church posted the following statement on their website:

The Food Pantry at St Stephen's is focused on to the food needs of Ferguson in this difficult time.

We are grateful for the generous response of so many. We continue to receive contributions as we increase the distribution of food. Today we fed kids who were not in school because of delay of the opening of school, the residents of Canfield Green and Oakmont Townhomes, many people who came by the church and the people who are served by a neighboring pantry. Over a quarter of the food donated so far was distributed in this one day. Many people are doing amazing work to serve in this time. In our focus on food we are striving to live out this call of Bishop Tutu:

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." -Desmond Tutu

We wonder what would the metric for Average Weekly Usage look like for St Stephen's? We are sure it is greater than the reported Average Worship Attendance statistic.

Think about the church you attend and all the activities and programmes you offer. What would Average Weekly Usage show for your parish? If you were to compare that to Average Worship Attendance statistics, what would you see? Please write and tell us your thoughts.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

30 August 2014

* To calculate Average Weekly Usage: Sum the total of attendance at all worship and other parish functions, activities and programmes throughout the year. Then divide by 52 weeks.

To donate to St Stephen's food pantry, visit their fundraising page on CrowdRise:

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