As the United States approaches the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus’s impact continues to shape contemporary life and how faith communities continue to worship.
Masking remains an omnipresent necessity to keep ourselves and others safe. Especially as the omicron variant surges, many workers are forced to stay home from their workplaces, having significant impacts on supply chains worldwide.
Faith communities have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. A recent report from the Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations project from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, funded by the Lilly Endowment, highlights how the pandemic has reshaped how congregations worship, learn, and do service work. The survey received responses from 820 congregations from 38 denominations.
The pandemic highlighted stark inequalities across the country, and many congregations stepped up to reaffirm their commitment to their existing community-based ministries. Over half (54%) even added new ministries or expanded existing ministries. These initiatives were wide-ranging – some congregations helped elderly and immunocompromised people by shopping for groceries and providing rides to medical appointments. Twenty-one percent of congregations provided direct monetary support to individuals and partner organizations. Many congregations also expanded the programming in their building for activities including 12-step programs and childcare.
In addition to using their physical buildings for worship and ministry activities, congregations have also expanded their work online. Eighty-five percent of congregations are currently worshipping in a hybrid form, encouraging attendance both in-person and online, with three percent of congregations meeting only online. Community-based projects have also included efforts to provide technological assistance to seniors as they navigate an increasingly digital world. While congregations have returned to in person activities throughout the pandemic, digital outreach and engagement remains an important part of the work congregations undertake.
The pandemic has reconfigured faith-based organizations’ relationships with their buildings and their communities. This report reiterates the deep connection between faith institutions and their communities. In a time of crisis, houses of faith have risen to the challenge to provide for their communities and are relied on more than ever by those communities in a beautiful symbiosis.