The June 2011 issue of In Review, the newssheet of the National Church Institutions of the Church of England, reports that six dioceses (Bradford, Lichfield, Manchester, Newcastle, Southwell and Nottingham, and Worcester) have been trialing an online data collection system for the hitherto paper-based annual parochial returns.
Revd Lynda Barley, Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops’ Council, is quoted as saying that the pilots have been going well, with overwhelmingly positive and constructive feedback. Statistics are available instantly for analysis, and comparisons possible with previous years. There are in-built checks to verify the data.
Formal evaluation of the venture is now taking place, but Barley is confident that web-based data capture will soon be a reality for all churches. This will also greatly benefit users of Anglican statistics, who currently have to wait quite a while for them to appear. For example, it was only on 3 February this year that the 2009 statistics for mission were released, and they were still provisional.