Over the past several months, as part of the work of the Diocesan Task Force on Physical Resources, I have been using census and other data to produce a demographic study of communities within our boundaries - from Kingcome Inlet to Hope; from Whistler to South Surrey.

For a larger image of this map, please go here

The research divided the diocese into 22 study areas, and reported on information ranging from population numbers to immigration trends, and from religious affiliation to income.

Much of the information gathered I presented to parishioners at the archdeaconry meetings held in October. The reports provide a snapshot of the communities surrounding our parishes using data from the 2001 census.

This map, created by UBC planning student Quyen Tran for us, shows some of the data in one area of the diocese, Surrey and Langley and neighbouring areas in the Tri-Cities and Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge. It shows the distribution of people who, in responding to the Canada census takers in 2001 said they were "Anglican" (whether or not they regularly attended church). We call these people "census Anglicans."

Also shown on the map are the numbers for average Sunday attendance, as reported by parishes in their annual parochial reports. Far fewer people than all those who tell the census takers they affiliate with the Anglican Church actually appear on a parish membership roll.

The information on this map - while interesting - is only useful if you use it as a starting point for asking the larger questions.

It would be an easy assumption to make that the greater the number of people who affiliate with the Anglican Church in an area, the larger the congregations should be, but affiliation is not the only factor that compels a person to walk through the front doors.

In thinking back on your own experience of walking through the doors of your church for the first time, what compelled you? Was it the fact the church was Anglican? Were you invited to come to worship by a friend or colleague? Why did you come back a second time? And then a third?

Many factors influence a person's or family's decision to come to church - from Sunday soccer practices to disposable income; from transportation options to past experiences (negative or positive) associated with the Anglican Church, and the leading of the Spirit.

Leading up to the February Archdeaconry meetings through the Diocesan Task Force on Physical Resources, I will be working on another round of demographic data. I hope to be able to show, on the one hand, an overview of trends that are visible when the 22 study areas are taken as a whole. A few early results of the work are presented in the table.

This next round of analysis will focus most of its attention, though, on the results of the survey that parishes completed over the summer.

The Parish Survey (an update to a similar survey completed in 1996) collected data on a variety of subjects: information on numbers, conditions and maintenance of parish buildings; use of the buildings; congregational demographics; intentional relationships with other churches, faiths, and community agencies; perspectives on the future; and technology use in parishes.

Parishes will receive a summary of what they reported plus, for comparison, averages for their deanery and for the diocese as a whole. The reports will be mailed out to parishes in the week after January 15.

For more information about this research, please contact me at pdampier@vancouver.anglican.ca or 604 684-6306, extension 227.