The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on places of worship
The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on places of worship

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on places of worship

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – For the first time in 80 years, according to a Gallup poll, most Americans do not belong to a house of worship. The numbers have been declining for years, and now due to the pandemic, thousands of houses of worship may close forever.

The research company Barna Group, estimates that personal church attendance is 30% to 50% lower than the number recorded before the pandemic.

“We usually live our lives in an ocean, and the pandemic has made everything so much less,” said Pastor Jim Curran, a pastor in The Basilica of St Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Downtown Norfolk.

Gone are the crowds that filled church chairs for Sunday services; away are dozens of mourners who attended funerals; for some, the warmth of personal community is gone, which is desperately needed in a time of global unrest.

“Having only existed in a year-like boom, it was a shock, and suddenly our world turned upside down,” he said. Rabbi Israel Zoberman, who is the founder of Lev Tikvah.

It is a pandemic that does not discriminate. Leaders of all faiths have made major adjustments amid closures, audience restrictions, and mask mandates.

“It has changed our teaching service, it has changed our community, it has changed everything we do.”

“We reopened in March 2021, and what we have seen is that there has not been a full return of the congregation back to personal worship,” he said. Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Gunns, pastor of Second Calvary Baptist Church in Norfolk. “We have a large number of people who worship virtually, and I have shared with pastors that you can expect a number of your people will not return to personal worship.”

As the pandemic enters its third year, there are warnings that 1 in five places of worship may close forever.

“Statistics say 15,000 churches in North America will close,” repeated Bishop Kim W. Brown, who is the presiding officer of Mount Global Fellowship of Churches.

Here in the Hampton Roads, some places of worship defy the odds. Mount, with 8 brick and mortar locations now has a ninth location called Mount Virtual, which is a product of the pandemic.

On New Year’s Eve, we did a two-hour production and preached four points to my sermon. Each of the points was in a different geographical location, Bishop Brown says. “Point one was in Atlanta, Georgia, point two was at Langely Speedway, point three was in a bank, and point four was in my backyard. The audience was 25,000 people on six continents.”

Bishop Brown says the pandemic minimizes church walls and extends church reach.

“A person who is a church consultant for us said that COVID has compressed ten years of change in the church. We have just rolled out a new platform that allows you to sit next to people you would like to sit next to. of in a virtual church, and it allows you to interact with these people, the bishop boasted.

On Unity Renaissance in Chesapeake during the first year of the pandemic, the church received its highest amount of contributions ever. That was enough to build a million-dollar expansion that includes space where Guidance services are offered to children who fell behind during the pandemic.

“We navigated through the most difficult times, being together again was one of the happiest days I have ever experienced in my life.”

The years, 164 of them, have included 6 pandemics at the current location of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Father Jim Curran is looking forward to the day when the entire herd returns.

“This church was closed for almost five years [for renovation] and when we moved back, it was during the pandemic. So I have not yet seen this church full, ”said Pastor, Pastor Jim Curran.

As it stands, the pandemic may reach endemic status later this year, Father Curran has this assessment of how a global health crisis has affected humanity.

“We usually live our lives in an ocean, and the pandemic has made everything so much smaller. The slightest ripple in that pond can seem like a tsunami, and I think that’s what we see happening,” said Father Curran. . “Everything, even the mask obliges with critical race theory … one grasps one thing, and it becomes everything, because everything is so small now; it’s so isolated. “

Rev. Curran says that when we can expand our living space – where we exist – then everything expands.

“I think it will take some time, but I think we will, because that is what we do; people are remarkably adaptable, Pastor Curran said.

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