Going 360: The future of houses of worship after COVID

Going 360: The future of houses of worship after COVID

Kansas City, Missouri – If you are a person of faith, it is almost certain that at some point in the past two years, you have been worshiping from somewhere other than your usual worshippers.

The pandemic has forced houses of worship around the world to close, and many have fully reopened in the past few months. But what is the long-term impact of all these sessions in the home, on the people, on those buildings?

KSHB 41 takes this 360 story, and speaks to:

  • Faith leaders from multiple traditions, about the importance of their buildings
  • A lifelong churchgoer, he decided to continue to worship from home
  • A woman grateful to be back in the church building, and the value she finds in personal worship
  • Founder of a new church in Kavkaz Center, where meetings include a mixture of worship in person, and worship in small groups at homes

Father Paul Turner is a patron Cathedral of the Immaculate Conceptionone of the most famous church buildings in Kansas City, Missouri, thanks to its golden dome.

“It’s not the tallest building on the horizon, but it’s the most flashy,” Turner said. “The cornerstone was laid in 1882. You could tell this building was built for over 1,000 people to be here at one time.”

Turner says the beauty of the building is one of the things visitors point out the most.

But the future, like many church buildings, is not so easy to see.

a public opinion poll This spring showed that nearly four in five Americans say their lives are at least some, if not completely, back to normal after COVID. But a poll from Pew Research At about the same time, only two out of three ordinary churchgoers were found to have returned for personal service.

The need for a building in which to worship is universal.

Imam Dr. Abdul Hamid Al-Jizawi leads the Johnson County Islamic Center, a mosque that was originally closed to the public for nearly two years during the pandemic. Muslims are invited to pray five times a day.

Al-Jizawi said, “We highly recommend that you do it in the mosque. You can do it in your work, you can do it in your home…We as Muslims have flexibility in our religion.”

But Al-Ghazawi remembers one night at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, when the building was closed, and he received a lesson in how much that means to people.

“On the first night of Ramadan, I saw a family who came with their mattresses, and prayed outside in the parking lot. I was crying at this moment, and the mosque is part of a Muslim’s life, and they can’t get away from it,” Al-Jazawi said. from the mosque.

Father Turner said the feeling is mutual in the Catholic Church.

“It’s a sacred space, so it’s a place for divine purposes,” Turner said. “It’s not just about entering the building, but getting the full experience of the Catholic Mass: its rituals, its sounds, its smell, you can’t enter any other kind of environment.”

That environment of another kind, to many believers, looked the same regardless of their traditions: a screen and a sofa.

It was a huge turnaround for April Shields, who had been to church her whole life.

“I was the little girl with the patterned stockings and lace, and the Easter sermons,” Shields said.

She is now a member of United Believers Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri. But this faithful church says it will be staying home Sunday morning now.

“This is my sanctuary, this is where I have peace, and I can come and no one will disturb my peace while I am here,” said Shields. “I’ve really learned through this whole thing that self-care is really important. It’s not just about brushing your nails or styling your hair, it’s about taking the time to rest.”

While the term virtual church is not a term many people were familiar with prior to the pandemic, houses of worship around the world have now made great strides in the way their offerings are presented to people watching online.

“And if the church doesn’t do that, I think it’s going to lose a lot of people who won’t come back in person, or who might never start to go in person because it wasn’t part of who they were,” said Adam Hamilton.

Hamilton is the principal pastor of Alqiama charch, one of the largest United Methodist congregations in the world. Thousands are watching their services online.

But Hamilton says that even as church attendance is declining, the Internet can’t be the only symptom.

“We used to do it, ‘Here’s the church, here’s the steeple,’ open it up and everybody see, and I think it’s about the community,” Hamilton said.[Churches] They are hospitals, treatment centers, and they are places of love, community, and warmth, and if the church stops doing these things, stops sending people abroad to serve, it will die.”

Susan Painter started practicing her faith less than 10 years ago, so much of this part of her life has been at home. She says she was so grateful to have her back Saint Andrew’s Episcopal When given the chance.

“To be able to see and touch the people you love and who you haven’t seen in a long time was kind of exciting the first time we met again,” Pinter said. “I don’t necessarily see buildings necessarily becoming history, but I do see other ways in which the church can find expression, other than buildings.”

Rabbi Stephanie Kramer Judah congregation This idea was taken one step further – churches, mosques, and synagogues should be aware of what people need from their worship services, no matter where they are located, and be willing to provide it.

“When film became cheap enough that people could take pictures of their own, there was a real concern that the paintings would persist, and yet the paintings persisted,” Kramer said. “It’s more special, it’s even more special. You get something out of prayer when you’re on your own, when it’s personal prayer. It nourishes different parts of our souls that we need in different and unique ways.”

What will the future look like for houses of worship? A new church in Kansas City, Missouri may provide evidence of this.

in 2022, Noma Community Church The meeting started. Their members gather together in a rented place on one Sunday of the month. But on other Sundays, they gather in small dedicated groups in people’s homes.

“You really get lost in a crowd of 1,000, but in a group of 100 or so, you really get to learn and form relationships,” Numa Pastor Joe Ratterman said.

At the moment, there are no plans for Numa to open its own building. The goal was to offer something different, because going forward, Ratterman says believers need to be open about what is possible.

“I think the focus is on the less centralized assembly, and more on the smaller expressions of the church,” Ratterman said. “I love what the pandemic has done to the church. I love that it made us ask the big questions about why we do what we do, and what is most effective in reaching people.”

The University of Kansas Department of Religious Studies recently started Religion in Kansas, an extensive research project involving Broadcasting of Faith at the Free State. Members of the department, and this project, joined Taylor Hemness in this month’s edition of Faith in KC, which you can watch by clicking over here.

As part of KSHB 41 News’ commitment to providing context and depth in our reporting, we are excited to share our latest project, which we call 360. This project takes the stories and topics our communities are talking about and explores different perspectives on the issue. You can be a part of the process by emailing us your ideas at 360@kshb.com.

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