Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
Rector of the St Andrew Parish Church, Reverend Major Dr Sirrano Kitson, said it is inaccurate to portray the church as having low membership.
Kitson was responding to a report carried in Monday's edition of this newspaper.
"Since the article came out, I have been inundated with a number of calls by the membership of the St Andrew Parish Church. It is unfortunate that a picture of the third service in the morning has been used without any reference to the two other services on a Sunday morning," said Kitson.
Since Sunday, The Gleaner has been analysing and depicting the data on religion that was revealed in the Population and Housing Census 2011 released last week. Several empty seats and few worshippers were photographed at the St Andrew Parish Church when The Gleaner visited at 11:30 a.m on Sunday.
Kitson said that service was the least attended of the three Sunday services. He noted that the 6:30 service for early risers had a typical attendance of 100 persons; the main service at 8 o'clock generally had between 300 and 400 congregants; while the 10:30 service was really for seniors and shut-ins with a lower turnout.
The church's Sunday school, Kitson said, had between 150 and 200 young persons. He also added that the church's Christmas service usually attracts over 700 persons.
"Our numbers typically fluctuate between those figures and I can also say that we have had our numbers affected through death and migration," he said.
Traditional church on the decline
Data contained in the census revealed that there was a huge variation in the migration of persons among religions and denominations, with several of the traditional churches showing a drastic decline, while others experienced growth.
According to the census report, over the last 50 years, the Anglican Church had a huge 76 per cent decline, recording 74,891 membership in 2011, down from 93,612 in 2001, and coming from a whopping 318,643 in 1960.
Noting that he was not in a position to speak on behalf of the Anglican Church in general, Kitson said the St Andrew Parish Church was actively engaged in a number of programmes, including community and outreach, and its attendance was usually in the high numbers.
Kitson said, however, what should be the main concern was that the number of 'un-baptised' and unchurched was not being adequately and sufficiently engaged by churches in general.
In the 2011 report, 572,008 claimed they had no religious affiliation. In 2001, that figure was 543,902, moving from 183,738 in the 1960 report.
"The mission of the Church, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ, is to reach out to the unbaptised, the making of disciples of the 'non-baptised'. Those who know not the Lord Jesus Christ must be the focus of attention of the collective churches, and in particular the youth and men folk," said the rector.
"That is the critical issue for our churches and the leadership of our churches."
In the meantime, census data reveals that membership in the Roman Catholic Church dropped by 50 per cent over the same period, from 115,291 in 1960 to 67,204 in 2001, and further to 57,946 in 2011.
On the other hand, the Pentecostal movement experienced massive increase in membership over the 50-year period at close to 2,000 per cent.
The membership jumped from 14,739 in 1960 to a massive 247,452 in 2001, and the numbers continued to climb with the 2011 report recording 295,195.
The Seventh-day Adventist recorded a 311 per cent rise. The church is enjoying the highest membership of all denominations in 2011 with 322,228 members. This was an increase from the 2001 figure of 281,353 and a huge jump from the 1960 census, which showed 78,360 persons in the faith.