Though church attendance in the UK is less than 10% of the population per week, there are plenty of church options. Most churches run around 40-70 per week (I think), but those near the city centre are larger. We’ve found the believing community here, especially in the smaller churches, very friendly and inviting. Since most international students are limited to walking, they tend to go to one’s in the city centre or one in their part of town. Most of the larger churches seem to have some type of small groups program as well, but with no (or very limited) child care options.
Here’s a quick run down of Protestant churches that we know about. (I’ve marked with an *astericks* those churches that I’ve actually attended.)
St. Nic’s.* It has an evangelical feel, and is middle of the road with the Anglican liturgy. It’s the traditional looking church in the market square of the city centre. I believe they only have kids stuff during the early service.
Christ Church.* Among the N. Americans this is one of the more popular churches and is currently meeting out towards the University Library. It’s probably the most like a standard evangelical church in North America with regard to quasi-expository preaching, (roughly) contemporary music, and lots of college students. It’s also known for being (really?) conservative and vocal about differences with other groups. There is some contention over its Anglican status (see comments below): From what I hear, it’s under a different bishop than NT Wright, but they are clearly self-defined as Anglican per their website.
St. John’s. I believe it’s a fairly standard Anglican church, though maybe a little larger than others. A few lecturers attend there.
Many other churches are spread through out the city. Also, the Bishop of Durham (aka Tom Wright) also preaches from time to time at the Cathedral. He doesn’t preach there as often as I expected that he might, but I don’t keep up with his schedule either.
Here are the so-called ‘non-conformist’ churches, since they don’t follow the official state church…
Methodist churches (or ‘chapels’ as they are sometimes called) are also spread throughout the area. They have a historical connection with coal mining, which was prevalent in this area. One interesting note is that ordained and lay preachers rotate around the circuit to preach each week. Such that, even the pastor for a church may only preach at his or her church twice a month.
Side note: We go to Carrville Methodist, which is just past Gilesgate Moor and Belmont (in Carrville). We intentionally chose a church that was not a college church so we could interact with regular English people outside the academic setting. Another plus for us is that the walk to Carrville is all flat, so it’s easier to get to with kids.
Kings Church. ‘A lively, charismatic, evangelical congregation in the heart of Durham.’ per its website. Two of its main staff are quality biblical scholars that teach in Cranmer Hall and are regularly involved in the theology department. I’ve have several friends that attend here.
Emmanuel* Contemporary worship. Lots of young families and college students.
Others? Also feel free to comment on your church if you have more details.
Every church we’ve been to is very relaxed about the way kids are handled. In fact, with most you’ll have to ask what to do because they tend to be very informal about it (at least from a N. American perspective where the churches and the kids operations are much larger). That is, they don’t tell you right when you walk in the door what to do with your kids. Most churches have the kids begin in ‘big church’ and then part-way through they go to creche (under 3 or so) or Sunday School. (There is no SS for adults.) There are typically no facilities for infants, so I would expect to keep them with you.
Most churches seem to pool resources on this, since few have the critical mass to do something alone. The main evangelical community youth group is LOL: Living Out Love, which just happens to be led by a US friend of ours here. I know the Methodists have something roughly equivalent as well called YPF: Young People’s Fellowship. I also here there’s a great new children’s and youth ministry at Carrville Methodist…run by my wife.