Suffield Observations

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Going Back to Church

Andy Sauer

I have a friend who is a bona fide holy roller – the kind of guy who will text you passages from the Bible, proudly keep the commandments, and never, ever miss church. Always wanting more, he clicks from one service to the next. That’s right, this guy loves streaming church.

He’s come a long way. When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, the wholesale closures of public gatherings really burned him. But once he connected with whole online experience, he really appreciated attending church from the comfort of his own home. The bloody marys helped.

Now that the world has re-opened, he’s actually been slow to renew his in-person attendance. He’s not alone. A Pew Research Center survey in March found that the number of parishioners only tuning into services has only been slightly dipping – from 36 percent at the start of the pandemic to 30 percent.

However, as much as people enjoy attending church from the comfort of their own homes, remote attendance has not come at the expense of in-person attendance, which according to the Pew survey more than doubled — from 13 percent in July 2020 to 27 percent in March. And my church, First Church of Christ in Suffield, has been no exception.

“It’s really fascinating. In the past month we’ve had a surge of people returning to the pews,” said the Rev. Diann Bailey, senior minister at First Church.

I count myself among those ranks. While I consider myself a “faithful” person, I was an unreliable parishioner. These past weeks, I found that I started to miss a lot of the people I only ever saw at church.

“It brings people together of different walks of life that wouldn’t see each other Monday through Saturday,” Bailey added.

Prior to the pandemic, the ties that bound the community were already fraying. It seemed that the coronavirus would sever any remaining real-world connections. Human beings, however, are social creatures, and shutting down all avenues of interactions created a hunger for socialization. People wound up breaking some of the anti-social habits we picked up over the years, such as skipping church.

The rise in attendance has got me thinking. If the number of worshipers attending church has been increasing and the number of remote parishioners has been steady, is there the possibility of a church surge on Christmas Eve?

I’m going to arrive early to make sure we get a pew – just in case. If I don’t see you there, I’ll assume you’re tuning in, enjoying a cup of eggnog.

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