By John Martin

New research reveals that a pool of older people who volunteer in English parish life is dying out and few members of the younger generation are stepping up to replace them.

This new warning comes from Abby Day of Goldsmiths, University of London, in her new book, The Religious Lives of Older Laywomen: The Last Active Anglican Generation.

“The prognosis for the Church of England is grave,” Day said. “While elderly laywomen have never been given a formal voice or fully acknowledged by the church, they are the heart, soul and driving organizational force in parishes everywhere. Their loss will be catastrophic.”

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Most of this generation of stalwarts, “a generation whose values are centered on nation, family, and God,” are the parents of 1960s baby boomers. The 70,000 women who worship regularly and keep parishes ticking are now entering their 80s and 90s.

Day says younger churchgoers have turned to social activism. “Irrespective of one’s religious viewpoint, it is impossible to deny the role the Church of England has played in providing informal social care, and a unique unconditional space for those who often have nowhere else to go,” Day said. “As the church itself vanishes through lack of organizational support, it is inevitable that addicted, homeless, bereaved, or socially isolated people will lose out.”

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