What Pandemic? Australians Return to Worship - Hope 103.2

What Pandemic? Australians Return to Worship

With lockdowns perhaps a thing of the past, religious services have seen numbers of the faithful return to normal.

Listen: Dr Ruth Powell from NCLS joined Ben McEachen on Hope Afternoons to discuss the findings

By Michael CrooksMonday 28 Mar 2022FaithReading Time: 2 minutes

Attendance at religious services is back to normal, according to new research.

While attendance levels dropped sharply in line with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the levels have returned to that of pre-pandemic time.

According to Sydney-based NCLS Research, in 2021 the level of regular religious service attendance was 21 per cent. Now, it is at 20 per cent.

“That is, one in five Australians attended religious services frequently, at least once a month,” NCLS Research’s Director Dr Ruth Powell said.

“This is similar to levels recorded before the emergence of the virus in 2019.”

“One in five Australians attended religious services frequently, at least once a month,” – NCLS Research’s Director Dr Ruth Powell

Spiritual practices “important”

Dr Powell told Hope 103.2 this suggests that people have re-engaged with the “practicing” aspect of their faith.

“In the same survey, we asked Australians about the importance of spiritual practices during times of crisis, and nearly seven out of  10 Australians thought spiritual practices were important and that around half of all Australians were drawing on these practices,” Dr Powell said.

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“Attending religious services was the fourth most appealing practice after spending time in nature or outdoors, listening to uplifting music, and expressions of prayer, meditation or mindfulness.”

The research also showed that of those Australian who attended services last year, 13 per cent went to services at least weekly.

“Attending religious services was the fourth most appealing practice after spending time in nature or outdoors, listening to uplifting music, and expressions of prayer, meditation or mindfulness.”

Online services

Meanwhile, churches are still offering online services for the faithful, including for weddings, funerals and baptisms.

According to NCLS Research, around 18 per cent of Australians used digital technology to attend an online service in 2020 and 2021.

And seven per cent of Australians attended weddings, baptisms and funerals online.

“As churches look forward in light of COVID-19, many will be exploring new ways to connect,” Dr Powell said.

Indeed, in the survey, 16 per cent of Australians said they were willing to use an online platform, such as Zoom, to discuss their Christian faith. This “is encouraging and as many churches have moved services and activities into the on-line space over the past few years,” Dr Powell told Hope 103.2. “There is definitely potential for that to occur.”

Church survey

Later this year, NCLS will also release its annual National Church Life Survey.

“When the results from the National Church Life Survey are available we will be able to provide more insight into the ways that churches responded to the changing government and health requirements over the past few years and the impacts on church attendance,” Dr Powell said.

For more information or to participate in the survey, visit here.


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