Direct democracy Switzerland: How To
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Swiss church studies UK survival techniques


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Church attendance continues to decline in Switzerland and in the United Kingdom, but protestant leaders in both countries are trying out new ideas to buck the trend. (SRF/swissinfo.ch

Switzerland has a strong protestant tradition, with Zwingli and Calvin leading the Reformation in the 16th century. But now there are only about 1.8 million registered Protestants. At 26.9% of the population, it’s the lowest membership figure ever. Over the last 15 years, official departures from the church have doubled. 

This has had an impact on church incomes, as the Swiss have to pay taxes towards their local place of worship, unless they officially quit the church. Under pressure to save money, the Protestants have started to sell off old religious buildings. They are also considering sharing churches with the Catholics. 

Another approach is to try to win back believers by making the church more appropriate to their needs. A delegation from the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, an alliance of 26 Protestant churches, has been visiting England to find out what their vicars do to keep worshippers coming. One idea is to make churches more like community centres, where members can meet for coffee and theatre performances.