'I am into people not figures', says Shropshire vicar as researchers claim religion is decreasing in county
The vicar of Much Wenlock says that relationships with people and not numbers are at the top of his agenda after researchers claimed that that religion was on the wane in Shropshire.
A survey of 21,000 people uncovered deep religious divides between city and country, with diverse urban areas home to stronger religious sentiments.
More people disagreed with the statement than agreed with the "all morals are grounded in religious teachings" in the five parliamentary constituencies that are in or cross over into Shropshire.
Rev Matthew Stafford said: "I never get obsessed with numbers as I am into people not figures.
"In my experience in the Wenlock team there are indeed challenges over declining numbers in church attendance, but at the same time what I do find interesting is that even though families, particularly children, may have moved away they see the church here in Shropshire as their spiritual home.
"So for instance people from London, France and Scotland all descended on Shropshire and their parish church at Christmas. Much Wenlock was bursting at the seems at the crib service on Christmas Eve which was full of children and young people and so I never lose heart.
"It is the duty of the church to use the liturgical year to their missionary advantage in the countryside - the one thing that goes in the churches favour in the countryside is that people still appreciate the place of their parish church. It's all about fostering relationships and not getting obsessed with numbers."
The survey carried out by the publisher UnHerd and pollster FocalData found that Ludlow appeared to be the least religious in Shropshire – 24 per cent agreed with the above statement, compared to 39 per cent who did not, with the rest undecided. This placed it 501st out of 632 areas in the UK, with a higher ranking given to areas with more widespread religious belief.
Telford was placed in 71st place in the UK, where 31 per cent agreed with the statement, and 35 per cent disagreed. North Shropshire followed in 287th place in the country.