I was reading this article in the New York Times: “For two years you didn’t see friends like you used to. You missed your colleagues from work, even the barista on the way there. You were lonely. We all were.”
It certainly reminds me of the congregation as they wonder where the people are. We have all been lonely. Some still hold back, not yet sure being together is safe or we just are so far out of the habit, we forgot how to go to church. I talked to one family this weekend that used to be very involved that stopped all involvement for over two years. They are not alone. Many of you told me similar stories.
The past few weeks we have had almost 80 people in the sanctuary, and we often have as many online either at the time of service or in watching the replay or viewing on YouTube. These last two weeks we had about 20 more in person than two weeks before, and I suspect that will continue to climb.
I, like many of you, thought those online would decrease as we opened our doors to in-person services. We are not finding that is the case. Some thought online viewing would take more people away from in-person gatherings. NOPE! Online is a consistent, huge component of how Sunday services are viewed- in fact, about 60 addresses watch online (some are families and some are couples, we have no idea how many one address or viewing represents, and anywhere from 30-40 watch the YouTube channel later in the week. Thus, online options expand the audience. They do not make the in-person smaller. View UUCW’s attendance report.
The other thing the staff and I did this week compared the number who attended in person BEFORE the pandemic and that was 90-200 people a week in 2019. So again, we are completely in the ballpark. It is time for us to think about who is ‘there,’ as much larger than what we see in the sanctuary. I know some would like more people together in person. The people who watch at home consist of families with children (many of who cannot be vaccinated), elders, those caring for ill loved ones, and people who live far away or are traveling among many others. Online service options make our church more welcoming and more accessible.
The growth at in-person services we are seeing comes from so many that just didn’t do anything with the congregation for two years. Those are the folks we are working to bring back. If you can call or email people, we have not heard from and welcome them back we would be delighted to have your help. Email me. I will send you a list.
You can keep reading that article about loneliness HERE.
If you have questions, let me know.