What Churches Are Doing Now During the Pandemic

What Churches Are Doing Now During the Pandemic

This October our Conference sent out a survey to all of our Conference’s churches.  We asked about many aspects of church life from worship to fellowship to Advent/Christmas plans to faith formation to finance to resourcing.  A total of 272 responses were returned, which represents a significant response - nearly 45% of our churches.  The survey closed on October 19th and your Conference staff is analyzing the results. The raw data report can be found here.  We’ll be sharing some of the findings in the next few weeks. 
The first question in the survey related to worship
Nearly every church in the Conference is live streaming worship. The platforms vary from ZOOM (the most common) to Facebook to Vimeo, YouTube and Instagram.  One third of the churches are pre-recording all or part of their worship.  Most live streams are recorded and posted on Facebook, church websites, or YouTube.  Some recordings are emailed to parishioners and a few are provided to local cable companies. 

A few churches are holding worship via phone conference calling.  A few are providing sermons and worship materials solely through the mail. 

Covid Cases on the Rise in Southern New England

In the past week the number of new cases of Covid within the SNEUCC region increased from 5% to 25% depending on your community.  We are also seeing a rise in the rate and percentage of positive cases being found and we’re watching the trend lines in hospitalizations.  Over 3 dozen states in our country are seeing significant rises in the number of Covid cases and hospitalizations.  Evidence suggests that people are becoming pandemic weary and are taking more risks with less precautions.  It is also noted that the rise in cases corresponds to the return to schools and colleges.  It is also noted that the approach of cold weather is moving many family activities indoors increasing the possibility of spread of the virus. We continue to urge caution regarding any in-person in-building worship that may add to the spike in Covid cases. 

Many churches are experimenting with or considering some version of in-person in-building worship.  This may include alternating weeks with live stream worship.  It may include worship leaders only in the building. In-building typically indicated a small gathering of registered members with leadership following safety and sanitizing protocols.  In total, 43% of the survey respondents indicated doing or considering some version of in-person in-building worship this fall or early winter.  

Currently, depending on the region of our Conference, between 20 and 25% of our churches have begun a hybrid of in-person in-building and online worship services.  As the number of Covid cases begins to rise, many of those are returning to all online worship. 

Comments indicated that most churches are still considering when it will be safe to return to in-person / in-building worship.  Some are looking at November, some at Advent, some are waiting till January or June.  Many are waiting until there is a proven and tested vaccine.

Comments regarding in-person / in-building worship typically include requiring advance registration, limiting numbers of attendees, designated safe distance seating, wearing masks, avoiding singing and following all recommended safety and sanitizing protocols. Most all of these are also live streaming or recording the worship service for those who should not take the risk of gathering in person.  

Many more are currently worshipping outdoors on their lawns, parking lots, community parks and beaches.  Over one third of respondents indicated offering outdoor worship.  Most of these commented that they were considering either moving inside when the weather gets cold or returning to online only worship depending on Covid spread trend lines in their local area. 

Care for your Leadership

In the survey the vast majority of online worship is being crafted, produced, led, recorded and edited by clergy.  Most clergy did not have extensive experience doing any of this.  A future blog will look more deeply at this aspect of the survey.  

The cumulative level of weariness for clergy and leadership trying to balance meaningful, impactful, and safe worship is palpable in the survey comments. This is an extraordinarily difficult time for church staff and leadership.  They are trying to lead faithfully through the complexities of administration, pastoral care, worship, and missional work.  It is compounded by the tension and anxiety that surrounds this election cycle where intense ideologies are found in the community and congregation.  It is layered by the long fight against racism. 

Your staff and leadership need the support of their congregations to affirm their efforts and provide them with the rest and relief they need to renew their emotions and restore their souls. 

Talk with your regional staff and keep any eye on our Conference website as we continue to collect worship resources that can supplement your faithful and creative efforts. 



Don H. Remick

Don Remick is Bridge Conference Minister.

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