Byline: Sarah Miloudi
CHURCH attendance in Wales could decline to less than a quarter of its current level according to an analysis of the country's religious trends.
New figures compiled after an analysis of membership of religious bodies have revealed the numbers attending churchona monthly basis could fall from 200,000 to fewer than 40,000 over the next four decades - that is less than the average attendance at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge football ground.
If the predictions are proved true, by 2050 Wales will be home to the smallest churchgoing population in Britain, as attendance in England was predicted to fall from three million to 700,000, and in Scotland it is expected to decline from 550,000 to 140,000 in the same period.
The figures published yesterday are specific to the numbers attending services based on Christianity, and showed the decline was particularly acute among Methodist and Pres byterian worshipers.
In both cases, worshipers are predominantly aged over 65 and according to the report - entitled Religious trends published by Christian Religion - these are the worshipers who are "dying off", andtheir associated churches could have to merge with others in order to survive.
Following publication of the figures, leading religion figures defended the state of church attendance across the country.
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said that although there had been a decline in the numbers attending services, at some churches in Wales, more than 44,000 people attended each week, with the figure rising to more than 72,000 at Christmas.
DrMorgan said: "All over Wales you can see parishes and churches transforming themselves and the community around them.
"They are fully engaged with their mission to the community in many different ways, with newand exciting initiatives, risks being taken, new avenues explored and new ways reinvigorated."
He also cited a number of churches which - thanks to new projects to restore their buildings to serve the community - have been kept open, such as St Joseph's church in Cwmbranin Torfaen.
Dr Morgan also said the role of the church in today's society had altered, and it could no longer be judged by attendance at services alone. …