A poll conducted last May offers the first solid data on how United Church communities of faith reshaped during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It shows a denomination that readily embraced online ministry, with more than half of respondents reporting that more people than ever showed up.
More than 500 people involved in leadership in 192 congregations completed the poll before taking part in a workshop series about combining online and in-person church organized by the Toronto United Church Council (TUCC) and presented by United in Learning. The vast majority of participants were from Ontario, but the Maritimes, British Columbia and Alberta were also well represented.
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Katja Brittain, the TUCC associate director who analyzed the results, points out that the survey was not representative of all the church’s 2,800 congregations because the webinars attracted mainly those that were already working online.
Still, the webinar participants offer a significant snapshot of what churches offered online during the pandemic. Worship, done by 93 percent of respondents, led the way, with governance and administration (council meetings) not far behind. Well over 80 percent offered fellowship and education, while ministries to seniors, youth and children were near the bottom of the list.
As for what worked well online, results were mixed. Half of respondents said worship did, but about a quarter said it didn’t. Another quarter said fellowship worked well, but even more said it didn’t. Least successful, according to respondents, was online social outreach. And 26 percent reported missing in-person activities.
Mike Milne is a writer living in Owen Sound, Ont.
This story first appeared in Broadview’s December 2021 issue with the title “Pandemic church survey.”
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