70% Irish faith leaders will continue online religious services when lockdown ends

  • Only 13% of faith communities have not provided online worship opportunities across the island of Ireland since the Covid-19 pandemic began, according to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

    Dr Gladys Ganiel from the university led a survey to conduct research into how faith leaders across the island have adapted and responded to coronavirus.

    The survey was distributed to over 2000 faith leaders via direct email throughout Ireland, with 439 responses received between 6 - 22 May 2020.

    Many respondents described an increase in online services for religious practice, with 44% of faith communities not providing this option before the lockdown.

    They observed surprising numbers of people tuning in for worship services and other events, noting that people who would not have entered their church building were accessing online services.

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    Dr Ganiel, who teaches in QUB’s School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work said: “Religious practice will continue to feature a mixture of online and in-person elements. Faith communities should invest in training and resources for faith leaders and laity to develop blended online/offline ministries.”

    70% of respondents agreed that they would retain aspects of their online ministries when restrictions on public gatherings are lifted and 89% of faith leaders claimed that faith had helped people cope with stress during quarantine.

    They provided examples of people praying more and people who had previously demonstrated no interest in faith or religion tuning in to religious services or seeking prayer.

    46% of faith leaders said their ministry had been more stressful than usual and 82% of faith leaders who are cocooning for age or underlying health conditions have continued their ministry.

    74% of faith communities from the largest denominations – Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist – were providing social services to the wider community during the pandemic.

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    Dr Ganiel added that the survey results “affirm the important role that faith leaders and communities continue to play across society, documenting the scale and character of their services.”

    During the pandemic, clergy and religious staff have been designated as ‘key workers’ by both the Irish and the UK governments.

    The full report, entitled 'People Still Need Us' has been published by the Irish Council of Churches here: https://www.irishchurches.org/covidsurvey

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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