If the Church of England worships online, how can its historic buildings survive?

Dec 27, 2020 by

by Simon Jenkins, Guardian:

Congregations have shown great adaptability in the pandemic, and churches could again be at the heart of British life.

We all know the future. It is online, home delivery, click and collect, view on demand. It is goodbye high street; farewell butcher, baker and Bricklayer’s Arms. But is it also goodbye church?

Normally Christmas is bumper season, not just for toyshops and turkey farmers. Three times more Britons – 2.3 million – go to church on Christmas Day than on any normal Sunday. Families who never attend parish church all year don their Sunday best and troop to a carol service. Teenagers party before midnight mass. It is churchgoing’s Black Friday.

Christian worship in Britain continues to plunge, down over the past decade by between 15% and 20%. Barely 2% of the nation regularly go to their Church of England parish church, and a third of them are over 70. Only Pentacostalists have shown any buoyancy. Lockdown 2020 brought incipient disaster, with Boris Johnson putting churches on a par with steamy nightclubs and sweaty gyms. This was despite the clergy pleading that empty churches had been socially distancing for years.

That said, lockdown has not been all bad news. Dynamic churches have turned the online boom to their advantage. Zoom praying, livestreaming and social media posting have soared. Almost 17,000 services and events were added to the website A Church Near You in 2020, according to church figures reported in the Church Times. Questions about churches to Amazon Echo’s Alexa rose from 75,000 in 2019 to more than 250,000 this year. The church’s Easter social media content was seen 3 million times, and the Time to Pray podcast has had 200,000 downloads so far this year. Only holy communion was a challenge, met by some churches via drive-in services in the open air.

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