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Important book on church attendance wins recognition

The National Church Life Survey (NCLS) publication Why People Don't Go to Church has been confirmed the primary source of current valid data for Australian churches to base their pastoral planning strategies on.

This follows its recent award of second prize in the annual Christian Book of the Year Awards. NCLS is a project representing the Uniting and Anglican Churches, and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Principal author Dr John Bellamy underlined the importance of studying the data when he said there is no single or simple reason why people no longer go to church in the numbers they once did.

"It is a combination of issues such as individual experience, attitudes and beliefs, personal background and relationships as well as broader social and historical factors," he said.

Most Australians had a childhood involvement with church and continue to identify with a Christian denomination. Survey results suggest that 71% have attended at least one religious service or rites-of-passage event in the past 12 months.

Many express interest in spiritual issues, yet church attendance is at its lowest point in the post-war period, with around 20% who claim to attend worship services at least monthly. The book points to the obvious and fundamental need for "vital churches and new forms of church to better connect with Australians".

Meanwhile Principal of the Uniting Church's theological school in Victoria Dr Peter Matheson has argued in The Age today that the Churches are becoming more - not less - relevant.

He talks about a "re-emergence" of the Church that "must be making old-time secularists rub their eyes in bafflement".

He cites a "new generation" with a "sharp social edge" typified in the "intellectual quality of publications such as Eureka Street, the flagship of Jesuit Publications".

He said the main churches do "meticulous homework on a remarkable variety of justice issues", but "they are still cold-shouldered by the political parties and frozen out by the media".

National Church Life Survey
The Age

National Church Life Survey Research | Books - Why People Don't Go to Church
Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards 2003 (SPCKA)
Uniting Church Theological Hall (VIC) | Dr Peter Matheson
Eureka Street

15 Oct 2003