(RNS) Throughout the nation, non secular congregations have reopened, or reopened with some well being restrictions nonetheless in place, after two lengthy pandemic years, in accordance with a brand new Pew Analysis survey.
However there was little or no rise within the variety of folks attending in-person non secular companies over the previous six months, whereas the variety of these watching companies on-line has additionally remained regular.
The survey of 10,441 U.S. adults taken March 7-13 confirmed that solely 27% of respondents mentioned they attended companies in individual this month (in comparison with 67% who sometimes do). Again in September, when the coronavirus was nonetheless surging and hospitals have been reaching capability numbers, the proportion of these attending in-person non secular companies was 26%.
Likewise, these streaming companies on-line remained regular: 28% in September 2021 and 30% in the present day.
Pew researchers steered the plateau in in-person non secular service attendance may rise if the pandemic continues to recede, or drop if a brand new coronavirus variant emerges.
Watching companies on-line will probably proceed to be increased, they mentioned, than it was earlier than the coronavirus outbreak started in early 2020.
Spiritual students are actually starting to discipline research to find out the long-term impacts of the coronavirus on non secular service attendance.
Scott Thumma, a sociologist who not too long ago started a five-year research of how congregations have fared throughout the pandemic, mentioned his preliminary findings present a modest enhance in in-person attendance from final summer time to November. (The challenge depends on knowledge from non secular congregations relatively than particular person attenders.)
“We’re not going to know the total impression for fairly a couple of years,” mentioned Thumma, who directs the Hartford Institute for Faith Analysis. “Persons are nonetheless hesitant to return. Clergy are nonetheless scuffling with convincing folks to come back again. Lots of people are both content material to not go or depend on on-line companies.”
Within the Pew survey, 21% of adults who mentioned they attend non secular companies month-to-month mentioned they haven’t gone again to in-person companies and attend on-line solely.
Solely 5% of respondents mentioned their locations of worship have been nonetheless closed. Respondents throughout all classes reported an increase within the variety of congregations holding companies as they did earlier than the pandemic.
Black Protestant churchgoers stood out because the Christian group almost certainly to have watched non secular companies on-line or on TV within the final month. This group with deep non secular commitments was extra probably than evangelicals and mainline Protestants to say they watched on-line companies within the final month, in step with different research that recommend Black churchgoers are much more cautious in defending themselves from the virus.
The survey didn’t comprise sufficient respondents from non-Christian faiths to report their worship habits individually.
The survey additionally confirmed that the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who mentioned their church buildings have been open as earlier than the pandemic was roughly double the share of Democratic congregants who mentioned the identical (58% vs. 27%).