On March 19, we will begin having two worship services on Sunday morning, at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The last time we had two worship services on Sunday morning was March 8, 2020, so it’s been a full three years.
I don’t like the phrase “returning to normal” because it suggests we’re going back to something that we can’t go back to. The pandemic has changed us, and changed the world, and we need to face that and acknowledge it. If we “returned” to how we were doing things in 2020, then our Sunday service wouldn’t be live-streamed and we wouldn’t be mindful about how we spread illness.
Instead, I think what we are doing is “experimenting to see if two services still suit us.”
There are two immediate benefits to having two services. One is that our congregants will have more choices on Sunday mornings. This may be especially helpful to parents with young children. Young children get up early, and families coming to the 9 a.m. service still will still have plenty of time for other activities in the rest of the day. Our children’s religious education programs will run during the 9 a.m. service, as they did before the pandemic.
The second benefit is that more people can attend Sunday morning worship in-person without the chapel becoming crowded (something we want to avoid while Covid variants still abound).
To decide which service will be livestreamed, we have polled those who attend online worship regularly. The overwhelming choice is in favor of streaming the 9 a.m. service, so that’s what we’ll do.
The last year of normal church operations was 2018; our new building was under construction in 2019, and then the pandemic hit in 2020. In 2018, our average Sunday attendance was 127. In comparison, our average Sunday attendance (zoom and chapel) in 2022 was 87. It will be a sign of congregational health if we can continue to raise our attendance on Sunday morning.
It is not unusual for people to stop attending church when they are experiencing a personal crisis. That may sound counterintuitive—shouldn’t we go to church MORE when we are in crisis?—but our human impulse is to “hide” when we are struggling. It is not surprising or unusual that Sunday attendance has dropped. And as we continue to recuperate from the stressors of being completely shut down, we hope and expect to see an increasing number of congregants on Sunday mornings, whether in-person or online.
Coordinating Team has not yet decided about other changes that might be made to our safety precautions, so please keep an eye on the weekly enuus for updates.
Blessings and love to you,