The Church of England has appointed Tashi Lassalle, a former head of communications for insurance market Lloyds of London and private equity firm Actis as its new director of communications. When she takes up her post next month she will head a team of 14 people, including senior professionals who take the lead on safeguarding, finance, digital and media; as well as communications training and special projects. The Church House communications unit serves the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board; and works with separate communications teams serving the Archbishops of Canterbury and York at Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Palaces, and the regional dioceses.
Announcing her appointment, the C of E said that she brings “extensive experience of leading communications and marketing teams in the financial and professional services sectors, both in the UK and overseas.”
She has held a series of senior posts in the brand and marketing fields, most recently as head of communications and marketing for Lloyd’s of London and previously as head of communications at Actis, the private equity firm. She has lived and worked in the US and Denmark as well as London.
“The Church of England makes a unique contribution to the spiritual, cultural and social fabric of this country,” she said as her appointment was announced. “It has a bright and vibrant future. It’s a great privilege to take up this position.
“I look forward to serving and enabling the life changing vocation of the Church’s diverse ministry and mission.”
The appointment comes as it was revealed that the Church of England’s social media channels reach more than one million people every month. Through a combination of videos, podcasts, blogs and images, including prayers, the Church reaches an online audience of 1.2 million a month through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. That rose to 1.5 million through its #JoyToTheWorld Christmas campaign and 2.5 million during its #LiveLent Lent project.
But while there were positive figures for its digital reach, the C of E reported a further decline in average Sunday attendance, with the October measure in 2016 – the month it traditionally uses for its Statistics for Mission reports – standing at 780,000 people. While its average weekly attendance – which included mid-week services – was 930,000 people. The Church measured its “worshipping community” – which it defines as a measure of the number of people who go to church at least once a month, at 1.1 million people; and said that one fifth of them were under 18-years old.
There was a significant upturn in attendance at Christmas, with 2.6 million people attending services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; while another 2.5 million people attended special Christmas services during Advent; and 2.8 million people attended special services for civic organisations and schools.
The statistics showed that ther were 120,000 baptisms and services of thanksgiving for the gift of a child, 45,000 marriages and services of prayer and dedication after civil marriage and 139,000 Church of England-led funerals during 2016.
“At the heart of the mission of the Church of England is a commitment to proclaiming the Gospel afresh in each generation,” the provincial secretary, William Nye, said. “This year’s Statistics for Mission provide a sobering reminder of the long-term challenge we face. This challenge is likely to persist for some years ahead. That is why we have established a programme of Renewal and Reform to transform the Church of England to become a growing church in every region and for every generation.
“The figures on digital impact . . . show one of the ways in which we are doing that, as the online dimension of people’s lives becomes ever more significant. Our challenge is to join up that growing online Church life to the physical community of Church that forms the body of Christ.”
The C of E’s head of digital communications, Adrian Harris, said: “As the digital evangelism statistics show, people across the country are engaging with the Church’s digital and social media platforms to grow in faith and find out more about the Christian faith.
“Over the last 12 months we tripled the number of followers on Facebook and Instagram, which indicates that people want to know more of the love of Jesus Christ.”