Christmas attendance is up in the Church of England - but the diocese where the Archbishop of Canterbury presides has experienced the biggest drop in average weekly and Sunday worship figures, according to new statistics.
Canterbury was the worst-performing diocese for average weekly church service attendance with a 9.5 per cent drop in this category between 2010 and 2011 - closely followed by Portsmouth at - 8.2 per cent and Durham at - 8 per cent, Church of England annual statistics have shown.
The Canterbury diocese also saw a fall of 8.3 per cent for average Sunday attendance followed by Portsmouth at - 7.8 per cent and Durham at - 7.1 per cent over the same period.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is head of the Church of England, is also bishop of the diocese of Canterbury. He is supported in his ministry by the Bishop of Dover, a supplementary or ''suffragan'' bishop.
The previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, left his post at the end of last year to become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. His successor, former Bishop of Durham he Most Rev Justin Welby, was enthroned in March.
By contrast, the top three dioceses for growth in average weekly attendance during the same period were Southwell and Nottingham at 10.7 per cent, Norwich - identified in the 2011 Census as the least religious local authority in England and Wales - at 9.1 per cent and Ripon and Leeds at 7.4 per cent.
The top dioceses to register a rise in average Sunday attendance were Southwell and Nottingham at 8.8 per cent, Lincoln at 4.8 per cent and Blackburn at 4.4 per cent.
The figures also showed a 14.5 per cent increase in Christmas attendance between 2010 and 2011, reaching a total of more than 2.6 million.
A spokesman for the Church of England said the rise was partly attributable to poor weather on Christmas Day in 2010.
But he added that figures from 2012 suggested another increase in Christmas attendance, indicating a growing popularity in church-going at Christmas.
The number of christenings increased by 4.3 per cent and was accompanied by a rise of just over 5per cent in adult baptisms, the figures showed. Thanksgivings for the birth of a child also rose by 11.9per cent.
A spokesman said average weekly attendance overall fell by 0.3 per cent, to around 1.1 million, representing a ''stabilising'' of the figures.
Church of England weddings saw a slight decrease of 3.6 per cent in 2011, to 51,880, whilst the number of wedding blessings - services of prayer and thanksgiving following a civil ceremony - was up by 4.5 per cent.
Church of England clergy and lay ministers conducted 162,526 funerals in 2011, a fall of 2.8 per cent on the previous year.
The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: ''These figures are a welcome reminder of the work and service undertaken by the Church of England annually - 1,000 couples married, 2,600 baptisms celebrated and over 3,000 funerals conducted every week of the year.
''The attendance figures are heartening, especially the very strong growth in Christmas Day attendance.
''The encouraging news of further growth to come even on these high figures is very welcome and points to a growing trend.
''Also welcome is the stabilising of the numbers of those who attend church services on a weekly basis.
''With almost half of our dioceses showing growth, there is a quiet confidence underlying these figures.''