Easter like Sunday morning

3/28/2024, 6 p.m.
As we approach the second quarter of the year, kudos to those of you who adhered to Jan. 1 vows ...

As we approach the second quarter of the year, kudos to those of you who adhered to Jan. 1 vows to lose weight, eat healthier meals and exercise more regularly.

Same goes for some folks who decided to spend less time on social media or watching reality TV in favor of reading books or watching thought-provoking films and documentaries.

If you, perhaps, failed miserably in achieving your New Year’s goals to rekindle your spirituality by attending worship services more often, you’re not alone.

Let’s be real. Many of us have been remiss in attending a house of worship since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. We used a global pandemic as an excuse to no longer attend church and to feel not the least bit guilty.

Not true, you say?

A Pew Research Center survey released a year ago showed that when asked directly whether they now attend religious services more or less often than they did before the pandemic, more Americans said their attendance habits declined.

But it’s a complicated picture, the Pew survey added. “As of November 2022, 20% say they are attending in person less often (while 7% say they are going in person more often). On the other hand, 15% say they are participating in services virtually more often (while 5% say they are watching services online or on TV less often).

Other studies have sown similar results. Church attendance has declined in most U.S. religious groups, according a 2024 Gallup poll. Just three in 10 U.S. adults attend religious services regularly, led by Mormons at 67%.

“As Americans observe Ramadan and prepare to celebrate Easter and Passover, the percentage of adults who report regularly attending religious services remains low, the Gallup poll stated. “Three in 10 Americans say they attend religious services every week (21%) or almost every week (9%), while 11% report attending about once a month and 56% seldom (25%) or never (31%) attend.”

Among major U.S. religious groups, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also widely known as the Mormon Church, are the most observant, with two-thirds attending church weekly or nearly weekly. Protestants (including nondenominational Christians) rank second, with 44% attending services regularly, followed by Muslims (38%) and Catholics (33%).

Back to the 2023 Pew report.

“Throughout the pandemic, White evangelical Protestants consistently have been the most likely of the country’s major religious groups to attend services in person. The portion of White evangelicals who report that they physically went to church in the past month has not dropped below 30% at any point since July 2020. In the most recent survey, fully half of White evangelicals (52%) say they attended in person.

“Black Protestants have experienced a substantial bounce in physical attendance, from a low of 14% in July 2020 to 41% in the recent survey. But Black Americans also have suffered a disproportionately high share of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths relative to White Americans, and Black Protestants remain the U.S. religious group most likely to be viewing services virtually. In the most recent survey, about half of Black Protestants (54%) say they participated in services online or on TV in the last month, compared with 46% of White evangelical Protestants and smaller shares of Catholics (20%), White non-evangelical Protestants (19%) and Jews (16%).

(The report could not analyze the attendance patterns of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other smaller non-Christian religious groups due to sample size limitations.)

In terms of party affiliation, Pew reports that Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely than Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to attend religious services in person – as well as somewhat more likely to participate virtually – throughout the pandemic.

(Ah! That explains Donald Trump’s Bible-selling strategy this week!)

What about younger Americans? Are they more inclined to attend church than older folks?

They are not, according to Pew.

“Older Americans tend to be more religious than young adults, and despite being at greater risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, Americans age 65 and older have generally been somewhat more inclined than young adults (ages 18 to 29) to go to religious services in person. Older Americans also report participating in religious services virtually at higher rates than the youngest adults.”

Once upon a time, Easter Sunday was guaranteed to pack a house of worship with faithful members young, old and in between. Also in the house and dressed to the nines would be lost and wayward souls who forsook sleeping late to make it to church on Easter Sunday.

Given the world’s constant hate crimes, religious wars, violence and unending crises, we need those days now more than ever.