~Kyna Shilling, on behalf of the Emergence Team
When your emergence team created this survey last month, we were curious how people were feeling about regathering in-person. We wanted to know if folks were vaccinated. We wondered what would help people feel more comfortable returning to in person worship. As of C&H publication, 200 households completed the survey, representing 472 people who are part of this church. Thank you for your participation! Your feedback has been so important to the pastors and the emergence team, as we prayerfully discerned our emergence path.
One thing we were curious about is if our congregation was committed to online ministry going forward. The answer to that was a resounding yes! 63% of you responded that you’ll attend both in-person and virtual worship, depending on your schedule or health status. This was so affirming of our investment in digital ministry and the technology upgrades we’re making to support it. We also heard from 13% of you that you’ll be part of our digital congregation full-time, based on your distance from our church campus or the convenience of connecting online. You are an important part of our congregation!
Another thing we wondered is, how many of you were attending online worship regularly during the pandemic, and what did you find meaningful? We were delighted that 77% said they participated frequently, with folks sharing that music, scripture and sermon particularly helped them connect. This was a great reminder that we’re the same congregation that we were before the pandemic, and we value the same things online as we do in-person. One person wrote, “We were able to connect/worship more consistently than before it was available online.” Another said, “I enjoy attending online. I can sing and participate virtually. I always dress up to attend Sunday church. It just feels good. And I feel like I’m part of things.” Of course, online worship wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea—many of you wrote about the ways it felt harder to for you to connect, and what you missed from pre-pandemic. As one person shared, “I’m tired of online worship but I think the church has done a nice job with it.”
The best news out of the survey is this: out of the 200 households and 472 people they represent, everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated has gotten their vaccine! It was also a helpful reminder that almost 20% of our congregation are kids under age 12, who aren’t able to be vaccinated yet. Another 5% are vaccinated but have an underlying condition that makes them more susceptible to Covid-19, even with a vaccine. As an intergenerational community, any plans to re-gather must consider the needs of our elders, our children, those who are vulnerable, and those who care for them.
As we plan our re-gathering, it was helpful to get feedback about what would make people feel more comfortable being in-person. Almost everyone is in favor of masking indoors. More than half would prefer socially distant seating. Three quarters of folks asked for different spaces to participate in worship, so we can limit how many total people are in the sanctuary. 35% wrote that they’d be more comfortable returning to in-person worship if there was no congregational singing, and just this week the Covid-19 Action Team has recommended that we return to worship without singing and without our choir for the next few months, while local transmission of the Delta variant is high. This is a big change from what we had imagined regathering in-person would look like. As we emerge, we know our experience of worship will be changing. In-person worship won’t be the same as it was pre-pandemic. Digital worship is moving to 5:00 pm. Change is hard, but we’re in this together— just like we were in March of 2020 when we first moved to online only worship.
We’ll leave you with this final survey comment, which sums it up really well: “I felt like from the very beginning, we were all in, not just a few people making an effort to continue to be a community, but many people pitching in to stay connected. This alone has been enough to move me to tears sometimes. There was a concerted effort to have it be meaningful and as good an experience as possible. I loved being able to participate and watching others creative participation. And while I look forward to seeing people [in-person], I have enjoyed being able to go to church in my PJs!”