This year, our second Easter of the coronavirus pandemic, as the world inches back towards “normal,” 39% of Christians in the United States say they plan on attending in-person Easter Sunday services.
On Monday, Pew Research Center released a survey finding Americans are “increasingly confident they can safely go to services at a church, temple, mosque or other house of worship.”
Designed to learn how Americans are participating in their religious congregations during the pandemic, the study among 12,055 American adults was conducted between March 1 and March 7, 2021.
Americans are feeling more confident about attending religious services in person
While individual states are opening up at different rates, more churches are open than last year at this time, albeit with many having limited capacity and increased precautionary measures, like physical distancing and mask-wearing.
The survey found many of these precautionary measures are congregation-requested or approved, with 58% of survey respondents indicating they thought at least some virus-related modifications are appropriate. Overall, fewer people think their church should remain closed than this time last year (down 15%) and 25% of respondents support the full reopening of their church without restrictions.
In most Christian denominational groups surveyed, they’re at least somewhat confident they can attend in-person services again safely. However, this emotion was not reflected in people identifying as Black Protestants. A much smaller portion of this denomination feels like it is safe to return to in-person church.
Three-quarters of U.S. adults who typically attend religious services (or attended in person in the last month) say they are at least somewhat confident they now could attend services at their congregation safely without catching or spreading the virus, including 45% who are “very” confident and an additional 32% who are “somewhat” confident. This constitutes a significant change since July 2020, when fewer (64%) expressed at least some confidence, including one-third (34%) who were “very” confident they could attend religious services safely.Pew Research Center
Many Christians report their faith has been strengthened during the pandemic
The survey also measured faith, asking if people’s faith had been strengthened as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Around 25% of respondents said their faith has been strengthened throughout the pandemic, while 4% said their faith has grown weaker and the rest said there was no change.
Throughout the pandemic, Christians have struggled to find ways to remain connected to their faith, to their church and to each other. Many congregations began offering virtual church services, small groups and Bible studies, which suited some more than others.
Many people took the opportunity to attend church more casually than normal, perhaps even in pyjamas or attending virtual church while on the go or doing yard work. Others, though, put in more of an effort.
WVLT in Knoxville Tennessee shared a story about Dr. Laverne Wimberly, an 82-year old churchgoer who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For the past year, she has dressed up in her Sunday best each week and has documented her outfits. She compliments her outfits with big, colourful hats and accessories.
“I just decided at that point I’m just going to get dressed as if I was going to church, so I would not get into the habit of just slouching around.”Dr. Laverne Wimberly
Dr. Wimberly said she wanted to keep herself and others motivated, as well as to inspire and encourage people during the pandemic.