Ilford ‘bucking the trend’ as Church of England attendance declines

Vicar Fr Stephen Pugh

Vicar Fr Stephen Pugh - Credit: Archant

The transient nature of Ilford has meant its churches have flourished amidst declining national attendance figures, according to one church leader.

Father Stephen Pugh, of St Margaret of Antioch, Balfour Road, Ilford, spoke of his church’s ever-changing but thriving community after the Church of England revealed weekly attendance dropped to under one million for the first time.

The numbers showed Sunday service attendance across the country had dropped to 760,000.

Despite the national picture, Fr Pugh said his church was “bucking the trend”.

“The sense is, in London numbers are rising,” he said.

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“The reason for that is there are new people that move here from other countries where churches are still very strong.

“My church numbers have been consistent for a long time, it’s not declining.”

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He said the makeup of his congregation changed all the time with people moving in to and leaving the area.

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to maintain the number of people attending services,” said Fr Pugh, who believes the church’s role in bringing familiarity to Redbridge’s new residents is key to it’s survival.

“I think for people that have come from other countries to live here, especially when their churches have been important to them, linking with a local church gives them continuity and a sense of support and familiarity that’s important when you move somewhere else.”

Fr Pugh, who is working on Redbridge Citizens’ campaign for community land trusts in the borough, said the church still has an “important role” to play in the “wider community”.

“My church is looking at the whole issue of housing and how we can create affordable housing within our community that enables people to buy and rent,” he said.

“My parish is made up of Christians and non-Christians and we can be a force for good, not just as churches but as places of faith working to try and hold a community together and maintain a positive vision.”

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