Cost of Dying and Other News


Cost of dying

Insurance company SunLife released the report of its ninth annual survey of the cost of dying on 13 October 2015. It was based on interviews conducted by YouGov, online on 8-20 May 2015 among 1,507 UK adults who have organized a funeral during the past four years, and by telephone between 16 April and 13 May among 100 UK funeral directors. The average cost of a basic funeral was found to have risen by 92% between 2004 and 2015, slightly less for a cremation (90%) and rather more for a burial (94%). A relatively tiny proportion of the absolute cost in 2015 (£3,693) was accounted for by the fee payable to the clergy or officiant at the funeral (£152 in 2015 for either a burial or cremation), a rise of 73% since 2007 which was substantially more than the 19% increase in doctor’s fees over the same period. Although religious funerals are still in a slight majority, this last bastion of religion is probably underpinned as much by tradition as by conviction. Of the sample of bereaved, just 1% admitted to knowing all the deceased’s funeral preferences, with 31% even having no idea whether their loved-one would have wished to be buried or cremated, and 53% uncertain whether to hold a religious or non-religious service. The report can be downloaded via the link at:

Church of England buildings

The first attempt in many years to audit the Church of England’s stewardship of its 15,700 church buildings was published on 12 October 2015: Report of the Church Buildings Review Group, chaired by the Bishop of Worcester and established by the Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners. It surveys the statistical and theological context before setting out general principles and specific recommendations for the future management of the Church’s places of worship. Some of the national quantitative information is tabulated below, from which it will be seen that 57% of all churches (and 67% of listed buildings) are to be found in rural districts, where only 17% of the population lives. Although per capita attendance is higher in the countryside than in urban/suburban areas, the average attendance is less than one-third in the former than the latter. Future closure of some churches is envisaged and the downgrading of others to ‘festival church’ status, involving the cessation of regular worship in favour of occasional offices and major seasonal services only. The report, which also includes data disaggregated to diocesan level, is available at: 





Distribution (% across)








All churches




Listed buildings




Church attendance




Other indicators




Population per church building




Attendance per capita (%)




Attendance per building




Average annual capital expenditure per building (£)




Cumbrian churches

One day after the Church of England national buildings report was published, the Churches Trust for Cumbria, an independent charity established in 2008, very belatedly released the results of its own interdenominational church buildings survey, the fieldwork for which was conducted as far back as 2012-13. The research covered two-thirds of the 600 Anglican, Methodist, and United Reformed churches in the county, highlighting the immense challenges which they face. Almost half (48%) expressed serious concerns regarding their financial viability. Only two-fifths (42%) appear to have been used for worship on a weekly basis. More than one-third (37%) were not used for non-worship purposes more than three times a year. Just 7% of congregations were aged 18 or under, with significant numbers more than 70 years of age – 47% in the Church of England, 51% for the Methodist Church, and 64% for the United Reformed Church. The report, which is somewhat lacking in terms of data and confusing in its presentation, can be viewed at:

Baptist Union research

The latest meeting of the Baptist Union Council took place on 7-8 October 2015. Among the reports received was one on ‘Fit for Mission’, for which Stuart Davison presented some preliminary findings from an ongoing piece of research among Baptist churches, to which 684 (35%) have responded so far. One interesting (albeit predictable) result concerned the big difference between the perception and reality of whether churches are growing or declining, the reality being measured in terms of membership numbers. The following table presents the headline data. Are churches in self-denial or is membership no longer an appropriate performance indicator? A report of the Council meeting is at: 

Churches … (% down)












Clergy well-being

Revisiting an 11-year-old dataset of 722 rural clergy, Christine Brewster found only partial linkages between churchmanship and psychological well-being (as measured via the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire). Although theological liberals did experience higher well-being than theological conservatives, controlling for sex, age, and personality, there was no significant difference between evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics nor between charismatics and non-charismatics. Possible explanations for these results are briefly offered. Her article, ‘Churchmanship and Personal Happiness: A Study among Rural Anglican Clergy’, is published in Rural Theology, Vol. 13, No. 2, November 2015, pp. 124-34, and access options are outlined at:

Undergraduate religiosity

The higher degree of religiosity among women than men is a persistent feature of the religious landscape. Yet it may not be the function of biological sex per se as of basic psychological differences in levels of psychoticism, which are lower among women. This finding emerges from a study of the frequency of churchgoing and prayer and attitudes toward religion of 1,682 undergraduate students in Wales at an unspecified date. The authors (Gemma Penny, Leslie Francis, and Mandy Robbins) claim to be first in exploring whether sex differences in religiosity persist after individual differences in personality have been controlled for, concluding that once personality is factored in ‘biological sex adds no further impact on religiosity’. The data are reported in ‘Why are Women More Religious than Men? Testing the Explanatory Power of Personality Theory among Undergraduate Students in Wales’, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Vol. 18, No. 6, 2015, pp. 492-502. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Religious hate crimes

On 13 October 2015 the Home Office published Statistical Bulletin 05/15 on Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2014/15 by Hannah Corcoran, Deborah Lader, and Kevin Smith. Of the 52,528 hate crimes recorded by the police in that year, 3,254 (6%) were religion- or belief-related, a rise of 43% on 2013/14. The increase is mainly thought to reflect improved police recording but there was almost certainly some genuine growth in religion hate crimes, linked to trigger events leading to Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. However, even these figures still represent a significant under-count, due to under-reporting, the Crime Survey for England and Wales suggesting that the true number of incidents of religiously-motivated hate crime each year may be as high as 38,000, fairly evenly split between household and personal crimes. Muslims are most likely to be victims of such crimes. The Statistical Bulletin and associated tables can be found at:

Strictly Orthodox Jewry

The latest research report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) was published on 15 October 2015: Daniel Staetsky and Jonathan Boyd, Strictly Orthodox Rising: What the Demography of British Jews Tells us about the Future of the Community. It explores the implications of the ‘extraordinary demographic growth of the strictly Orthodox sub-population’ in British Jewry, which is attributed to its high birth rate and low mortality. Making particular use of population pyramids, the authors assess the current and possible future numerical relationships between, and respective characteristics of, the strictly Orthodox and non-strictly Orthodox Jewish communities.  

The evidence base mostly comprises estimates derived from the 2011 census of England and Wales, including what is claimed to be the first presentation in the public domain of estimates of British Jewish fertility. The latter show that the strictly Orthodox possess the highest fertility of any religious group in the country and, all other things remaining unchanged, it is set to become the majority of British Jews during the second half of this century. The picture which emerges, through the growth of the strictly Orthodox, is thus one of reversal of the long-standing contraction of British Jewry and of its increasing religiosity. According to the Jewish Chronicle (16 October 2015, p. 14), aspects of the tone and content of the research have come under fire from the Interlink Foundation (an Orthodox charity). This is especially true of JPR’s estimate of the current maximum size of the Orthodox sub-population (43,500) and of the point at which it will account for half of Jewish births (2031). Interlink calculates that there are actually 58,500 Orthodox Jews and that they will provide the majority of births much sooner than 2031. JPR’s report can be downloaded from:

Jewish prisoners

The Jewish Chronicle for 9 October 2015 (p. 6) carried a news report about the ‘huge leap in [the] number of Jews behind bars’. This was based upon statistics supplied by the Ministry of Justice, from its National Offender Management Service (NOMS), in response to a Freedom of Information request made by the newspaper. The number of Jews in prison in England and Wales has apparently increased by 82% between 2002 and 2015, nearly four times more than the national prison population. It currently stands at 327, with violence against the person, theft, and drug offences the commonest causes of conviction of Jews. The same source also revealed significant growth in Muslim and Buddhist prisoners since 2002 while there are more than one-third fewer Anglican prisoners. The full NOMS data should be published in due course, but, in the meantime, the Jewish Chronicle report will be found at:


There are brief references to the early Baha’i presence in Great Britain in Peter Smith, ‘The Baha’i Faith: Distribution Statistics, 1925-1949’, Journal of Religious History, Vol. 39, No. 3, September 2015, pp. 352- 69. However, there are no data on British Baha’i membership for this period. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Dalai Lama’s insights

The British government and royal family have been rolling out the red carpet this past week for the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, according to a YouGov poll for the Free Tibet Campaign, the British public is inclined to side with the assessment of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, regarding the government’s motivations for its policy toward China and the protection of human rights in Tibet. ‘Money, money, money. That’s what this is about. Where is morality?’ asked the Dalai Lama. The majority of Britons (69%) agreed with his verdict, while only 8% thought he was wrong with 23% undecided. Online fieldwork was on 14-15 October 2015 among 1,671 adults. The data table is at:


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