Seven printed editions of Christian Research’s Religious Trends were published between 1997 and 2008, under the editorship of Peter Brierley. They appeared as a companion to the UK Christian Handbook, which had developed incrementally since 1973, predating the formation of Christian Research itself. Both series have rightly established themselves as a major resource for UK religious statistics.
Unsurprisingly, Christian Research has now decided that the pace of technological change, and user expectation, is such that the time has come to move Religious Trends into an online environment. It has just launched a prototype web version, edited by Michael Hudson, and with other contributions by Graham Sharp and Ian Wyllie (who also developed the website). This online version will be found at: http://www.christian-research.org/religious-trends.html
The aims and scope of the electronic publication are defined by Benita Hewitt, Christian Research’s Director, thus: ‘Our vision is to bring together facts and figures from many sources, and to paint an accurate picture of the state of religion, especially Christianity, both in the United Kingdom and throughout the world. We offer interpretation, analysis and comment in the articles on this website. If you need more detailed research or access to our source material, some of the articles in Religious Trends offer a gateway to spreadsheets or links to follow for more information.’
Access to the online Religious Trends is free to members of Christian Research, who pay an annual subscription to join the organization. There are varying levels of membership, including individual membership at £30 per annum. Besides Religious Trends, there are sundry other membership benefits, among them a regular printed magazine (Quadrant) and an email Research Brief.
Information about membership of Christian Research will be found at: http://www.christian-research.org/membership-info.html. Alternatively, you can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The online Religious Trends currently has the following main sections:
- The world and its religions (including global overviews, profiles of China, the United States and Europe, and a feature on martyrdom and persecution)
- UK church overview (including a summary of recent trends in churchgoing, restating the question posed by Christian Research since September about ‘The end of decline?’)
- Anglican UK (including attendance, clergy, parochial finance, and other key statistics)
- Other UK churches (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Independent, New, and smaller denominations)
- The Bible (including a digest of the results from a poll of 1,013 adults in England and Wales in July 2010)
- Faith Journeys (a major and ongoing project of Christian Research)
- UK population (including births and deaths, abortions, breaks by age, gender, ethnicity and region, and international comparisons)
- Household statistics (including adoption, household size, and children by family type)
- Marriages (including ages and attitudes to marriage)
- Web resources (including international religious research, other UK religious research, UK social research sources, and highest ranking religious blogs)
- Quadrant archive (at present, just the issues for 2009 and 2010)
- Other research reports (currently only one, on Mapping Migration)
Just like the BRIN website, the online version of Religious Trends naturally represents work in progress, and not all its sections are yet fully populated, nor are all the features (such as data downloads) operable. Text and charts, rather than tables of raw data, predominate at present. But the site-search function is already working.
Christian Research is positively inviting user feedback and suggestions on the Religious Trends website, which it will use to shape new features and updates (a major annual revision is promised, to incorporate each year’s membership, attendance and other data from individual denominations). So, it will be well worth subscribers bookmarking the site and making regular visits to check out what is new.
Understandably, the emphasis is deliberately on the contemporary scene (largely post-2000), so the printed series of Religious Trends and UK Christian Handbook will continue to have value for more ‘historical’ statistics.
However, there is a consequential caveat and risk arising from this. As the online Religious Trends publication is updated, Christian Research will need to ensure that superseded content is properly archived in some way, and not simply overwritten as is the case with so many websites, thereby consigning invaluable research data and commentary to a digital black hole.
All of us here at BRIN wish the Christian Research team every success as they evolve and grow Religious Trends in the years to come.