Christian worship in the United States, long characterized by its adherence to tradition, appears to have been significantly altered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Things will never be the same,” says Harry Moreaux in Naples, Fla., one of nearly 400 churchgoers who shared with NPR how the pandemic has changed their views of church life and their expectations for worship in the months and years ahead.
“I love my fellow brothers and sisters in God,” Moreaux wrote. “I used to go to many church-related activities like Bible studies and men’s fellowship. Now we barely communicate by text.”
A survey by the Pew Research Center in April found more than 90% of regular churchgoers in the United States saying their churches had closed their doors to combat the spread of the coronavirus, with the vast majority saying that worship services had moved entirely online. Social hours and church suppers are a thing of the past, at least for now.
The changes are not all negative. Many pastors have intensified efforts to stay in touch with members of their congregations and maintain their church communities.
“This crisis has actually caused us to do a better job of picking up the phone and checking on our members,” says Randal Lyle, senior pastor at Meadowridge Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. “It’s made me refocus on connecting individually with people. I have our staff checking on every elderly person in the congregation every couple of weeks to see what they need and how we can serve them. So there are some connections that are probably stronger now than they were before.”
The shift to online communication on platforms such as Zoom has also introduced some new efficiencies.
Claire Anderson, 45, a devoted member of North River Church of Christ in Marietta, Ga., had been attending worship services at least twice a week with her family, plus leading Bible study sessions with other church members. Under the shutdown, she says, she’s been able to do even more.
“I don’t have to drive an hour to sit down and read the Bible with someone,” she says. “I can do it all from home. There’s no running to meetings. There’s no strain on my kids. There’s no strain on my husband. I’m not always rushing somewhere.”
Anderson’s spiritual life, she says, may even have been strengthened during this time. “It’s almost like God is sending everyone to their room for a time out,” she says. “With all the business taken away, I can just be still and really focus on my relationship with God.”
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