Pandemic is a degree of rivalry in some church buildings

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(Photo: Pexels / Luis Quintero)

A new survey shows that it has become a "pressure point" for many churches to open or not to open again during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lifeway Research's survey asked 443 Protestant pastors in the US what they currently see as the greatest challenges for their churches.

Over a quarter of pastors (27%) said "maintaining unity / conflict / complaint" was the pressure point they "felt the most".

This was followed by frustrations about their ability to provide remote pastoral care (17%) and concerns about the safety of parishioners (13%).

Almost one in ten (9%) felt pressure to plan to return to collective worship.

A similar proportion (8%) were concerned about the finances of the Church. Over a third (34%) said that offers had declined over the same period in 2019. Thirteen percent of these churches reported a decrease of 50% or more.

Pastors' comments showed disagreement over whether churches should reopen or remain closed in violation of public health rules.

One pastor said half of his church was against reopening while the other half wanted to resume personal worship. Another pastor said his parishioners wanted the church to reopen despite Covid restrictions.

Other pastors reported that no matter what action they took, they were told by some that the Church was not doing enough and by others that it was doing "too much".

The survey also looked at the impact the pandemic had on community members. Three quarters (74%) said that a church member's income was affected by shorter working hours.

Almost half (48%) said at least one member of the Church had lost their job because of Covid-19.

Over a quarter (28%) said a member of the Church contracted coronavirus. Five percent had a parishioner who died of coronavirus.

Almost all pastors (94%) said their churches "provided hand sanitizer, masks or gloves for those who needed them", but only about a third (35%) said parishioners were required to wear masks.

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