Merton churches insist Christianity still thriving despite decline in religion’s popularity


Census figures released on Tuesday show 7.2% fewer Merton residents consider themselves Christian compared to 2001.


By Jonathan Garbett, Pete Grant & Andrew Jameson

Churches in Merton insist Christianity is still thriving despite a decline in its Christian population.

Census figures released on Tuesday show 7.2% fewer Merton residents consider themselves Christian compared to 2001, despite a 6% increase in the borough’s population.

At 56.1%, the total number of Christians is still higher than the London average of 48.4%, and some churches in the area have actually seen a rise in parishioners.

Nicky Yeo, Secretary of Queens Road Church, Wimbledon, said: “We’re bucking the trend and have seen a big rise in our congregations, so much so that we’re planning to expand to two other London boroughs.

“I still think the church plays an important part in people’s lives.”

The church also welcomed 60 people through its doors for its most recent Alpha Course, the highest uptake in three years for these national introductory sessions for those curious about the faith.

And their youth group also attracted over 200 local young people at its most recent event.

Christopher Palmer, 41, Rector of Wimbledon’s Holy Trinity Church, agrees that the findings of the census are not representative of the health of Christianity in Merton.

He said: “In the two and a half years I’ve been here, my congregation has not shrunk and is buoyant and alive, with the majority being young families.”

As well as providing a place for people to worship, churches in Merton are actively involved in charitable causes and provide facilities for the community.

Holy Trinity runs the Merton Mencap cafe in its church hall every Monday, which provides vocational training for adults with learning disabilities.

Mr Palmer said: “Churches are not just a religious place, but somewhere people can meet and we can encourage them to give time to the community through volunteering.

“I suppose without the church they would have to find somewhere else to meet which might prove difficult for them.”

However, not everyone sees the decline in faith as negative.

Atheist Nicholas Mark, 40, said: “I think it’s a good thing if there’s less religion involved. Our children can learn more about other cultures and be familiar with other languages.”

Reverend Richard Lane of Christ Church West Wimbledon believes rather than a loss of faith, there may be other reasons behind the decrease.

“I think there is a different of understanding of what it means to be Christian,” he said.

“There are a lot of people no longer listing themselves as Christian if they’re not sure what else to tick, whereas in the past there was the assumption then if they had no affiliation, they were Christian.”

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