• The state of Christianity in Cheshire: A critical survey of churches' places of worship 1990 to 2015

      Baker, Christopher T. H.; Rainbow, Michael R. (University of Chester, 2017-09)
      The aim of the investigation was to ascertain whether the number of churches in Cheshire being closed is exceeding the number of new churches being opened - indicating continuing secularisation, or conversely, whether in fact openings are exceeding closures - indicating areas of stability or minor resurgence; and also to question what proportion of churches in Cheshire which own their place of worship, have extended or modernised their building - demonstrating confidence in future growth. To answer these questions, a survey of every Christian church, active between 1990 and 2015, within the four unitary boroughs of Cheshire (Warrington, Cheshire East, Cheshire West & Chester, and Halton), was carried out by personal visit, or website exploration in the cases of churches which hired public buildings for worship. Every gain and loss of an active church over the 25 year time frame was recorded in order to reveal the reality of the situation overall and the trends which have occurred. The research results revealed that 22 of the 105 so-called closures were actually strategic replacement or relocation decisions (inferring growth not decline) which casts doubt on the validity of national closure statistics and on the conclusions of commentators who have (historically) been misled by ambiguous statistics. Of 118 new, mostly Pentecostal churches, 60 (51%) were hidden in hired public buildings such as schools, giving an erroneous impression of fewer churches. A second economic trend was evident from the 25 Local Ecumenical Partnerships found, which had enabled various denominational combinations to share buildings. As well as an increase in all indicators of growth and social reconnection, there was a marginal net gain over 25 years of 13 new churches (Halton -4, CHE +2, CW&C -1, Warrington +16) - a modest, but positive outcome, which indicated stability overall.