Church attendance still hasn’t recovered

When the Westminster United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, reopened its doors to the faithful late last year after seven months of coronavirus lockdown, there were Sunday services attended by three to four regular members.

Meredith Mills, the church’s pastor, says church attendance has gradually increased since then, but it’s still about half what it was before the pandemic, when 160 to 170 worshipers attended Sunday services.

The results of a survey conducted by the AP and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) show how dramatically attendance at religious institutions fell at the peak of the pandemic. At the same time, although many churches are returning to regular “in-person” services, the number of believers attending them has not yet reached pre-pandemic levels.

Data on the main denominations of the Christian church confirm the findings of the survey.

Mainstream Protestant Church. In May 2020, only 1% of respondents reported attending church at least once a week. In the latest survey, this figure increased to 14%, but still did not reach the level of 2019 – 16%.

Evangelical Protestants. In May 2020, 11% of survey participants said they went to church once a week. Today, this answer was given by 37% of respondents, and in 2019 there were 42%.

Catholics. In a 2020 survey, when many bishops temporarily lifted the obligation of the faithful to attend weekly mass, only 5% reported that they continued to adhere to this tradition. In 2019, they were 30%, and in the latest survey – 26%.

Between March 2020 and September 2021, members of First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio almost completely stopped attending church. When they were invited back to the temple in September 2020, as Bishop Timothy Clark noted, “It was obvious they were uncomfortable.” They came dressed as if they were going to work at Chernobyl, Clarke added, referring to the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.


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