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The impact of coronavirus on the Church - expert comment

As Christians in the UK face a second Easter under coronavirus restrictions, The Revd Canon Professor Leslie J Francis, Professor of Religions and Psychology at the University of Warwick, shares some key findings from the Coronavirus, Church and You survey which attracted 10,000 responses.

Professor Francis said:

“I am delighted that many cathedrals and churches will be back open for Easter Sunday. But this will not be business back as usual for a long, long time.

"There are three lessons from research to which the Church may wish to listen.

“The first lesson is rooted in research on church leavers. 69% of leavers have said that they simply got out of the habit of going and never returned. The pandemic has broken the habit, and many will not now return unless someone goes out to bring them back in. Jesus once said something about seeking the lost sheep...

“The second lesson is rooted in research during the pandemic. Two groups of former churchgoers were less content with how the church had responded to the pandemic: men and those aged 70 and over. These two groups will be more difficult to bring back.

“The third lesson is rooted in the psychology of online worship. Offline church services stimulate participation, personal engagement, and community. Online worship runs the danger of encouraging spectators, consumerism, and isolation. Currently we lack a theological rationale for placing online worship centre stage, rather and as providing proper ancillary support for those cut off from the offline community.”

1 April 2021

A second wave of the survey, co-curated with Professor Andrew Village of York St John University, is now in progress. You can read more about the survey here: https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/coronavirus-church-and-you/

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