Pastor’s Ponderings

Back in late March 2020, as a Covid 19 pandemic began to affect our community and our nation, I was asked to participate in an ongoing survey which was to be taken a multitude of times during the pandemic and continues even to this day. A number of objectives for the survey have been completed. Covid 19 is affecting churches within the United States. I would like to share with you some of the recent results from this ongoing survey and make just a general comment based on the current information as to how Claybanks United Methodist Church is being affected as compared in general terms with churches in the United States.

The survey includes pastors and congregations from over 2000 churches in 38 Christian denominations. Some key findings from this study include:

Congregational life is far from “back to normal” but recent information that has been gathered offers a few glimpses of hope and signs of resilience.

The pandemic has had a profound impact across the religious spectrum and many churches are on a path of healing while some churches are faring better than others.

80% of churches are now offering hybrid services with both in- person and remote options, while only 15% are solely worshiping in person.

During the height of the pandemic when people around the country were experiencing a severe isolation, over half of the churches surveyed reported completely discontinuing fellowship events, rather than moving them online.

83% of the churches had more than one member test positive for Covid 19.

Over two thirds of the churches feel they will emerge from the pandemic stronger than before.

Community service activities remain a thriving ministry for most churches and continued to be offered in person as we emerge from the heights of the pandemic.

Over 30% of the congregation saw the need for food assistance, counseling and spiritual demands grow over the course of the pandemic.

The majority of clergy, 62%, encouraged parishioners to get vaccinated and 28% of congregations welcome medical personnel to address their membership.

A decline of giving has continued since the inception of the Covid 19 pandemic with congregations reporting a giving decline on the average of 30 to 40% over the long term.

For congregations who have returned to in-person worship, the number of attendees has dropped on the average of 28%.

Most church congregations, who experienced a reduction in giving, plan to reduce their operating budget for 2022 in accordance with the experience of giving in 2020-21.

For churches that have reopened and shuttered their doors and reopen repeatedly, it appears that more of these congregations have done so because of public health concerns rather than political orientation.

These are only a few of the findings from the survey at present and information will continue to be gathered during the next few years as we continue to change and adapt our church lives because of Covid 19. A majority of congregations recognize that in the future other major events may affect their present mission as churches, worshipers and their communities.

For Claybanks United Methodist Church, we have felt many of these changes with the determination and resolve to continue to be a warm and welcoming church family ready to assist God’s children with our love, presence, prayers, gifts, service and resources to bring Christ light to all.

My prayer as your pastor and friend is that as we end 2021 with Advent, and the celebration of Christmas and with hope together, that we enter 2022 ready and committed to bring Christ light to the world around us.

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus The Christ.

Pastor Gary

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