Every institution and industry has been forced to adapt to the pandemic, many in permanent ways. The church is no stranger to this. Churches quickly accommodated for a different model of worship and as we start to return to normal, it’s appropriate to look at the long term effects of this. As someone with experience with the church, this is how I view the pros and cons for the Church’s changes.
This article is inspired by an article written by Carey Nieuwhuf as well as the sermon from Turramurra Uniting Church’s Rv. Phil Swain on said article. The key aspects being discussed are those pulled from the article by Rv. Swain.
The first of the three changes occurring in the church is the demise of the old church. For those of you who aren’t religious, basically there is a model of church including the way people worship and cultivate their relationships with God. A major pro of this change is welcoming people with trauma associated with this old model of the church back. Changing the way we worship can reduce these negative associations and memories connected to the church. Although change can be hard and confronting, it can also be exciting. As someone who grew up in the church, I am excited for there to be changes especially to invite new members into churches. Finally, I believe that as the world changes so should the church. It seems crazy to me that in the time since this model of church was introduced we have had so many societal and technological advancements and yet the church has stayed the same.
Of course with pros come cons. With a revitalisation of the model of worship older members of congregations may feel alienated and further isolated from younger generations. For those members, like myself, who grew up in the church these changes will take a lot of getting used to. And because of the nature of the pandemic, changes have occurred extremely quickly with steps in the process have been completely skipped over. This rush has sadly resulted in the closing down of churches who couldn’t withstand these changes.
Continuing on from this, the second element of the church changing is the innovation of Sunday worship. An advantage of this is the opportunity for more intimate discussions about faith. This happened during COVID because people simply couldn’t meet in larger groups. I personally became more involved in a bible study which allowed me and my friends to meet via zoom and in person and talk about issues that we truly cared about. Secondly, churches can find new ways to utilise their buildings and spaces. No longer is the church’s only use to sit in a large space and listen to a minister speaking.
The main downside to this, that I am scared to lose, is the reduction of the central space of the church as a meeting space. With this there is a possibility that the sense of community may diminish. However, I do believe that this community can be cultivated in a strong way with smaller groups.
Arguably the biggest change to the church during the pandemic was the switch to a hybrid model of church. Initially churches moved to only online, but as the world began to open up churches took on a hybrid model including both in person and online worship. This model is likely to stay. This allows for flexibility, people are able to watch from home or watch services throughout the week. So basically, worship around different schedules. Again, those with religious trauma and negative connotations with churches and buildings can worship in a safe space.
Sadly, a hybrid model of church takes a lot more effort and work from ministers and other organisers. Logistically, hybrid church is so much more complicated than in person church. Additionally, the sense of community found in in person worship is weakened with this model. This is mainly for those attending in person worship as less people are there. My favourite part of church services, and I know I’m not alone here, is the musical worship. And music just isn’t the same through a screen. You can’t hear everyone singing around you or be close to the musicians.
Ultimately, these changes are happening. And the world will never be the same as it was before the pandemic. As with all changes there are strong pros and cons associated with these. I hope that all congregations can stay strong and adapt to this new world we find ourselves in.