We’re Having a Greater Impact

Places Of Worship Seeing Boost In Attendance With Online Services

WCCO-TV: By Erin Hassanzadeh
May 14, 2020 at 10:02 pm

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s new “Stay Safe MN” order allows groups of 10 or less to gather starting Monday with proper social distancing. That includes meeting for religious purposes.

While some are ready to worship side-by-side again, that may continue to be on hold. But many religious leaders have found faith defies physical spaces.

From the unconventional, to the technological, worshipers are proving their faith has no bounds.

Dale Hummel, senior pastor at Wooddale Church, said they think online attendance is higher now than the physical attendance before the outbreak.

“As this virus hit, it was an opportunity for us to really rediscover the beginnings of the church, which most churches began in homes,” Hummel said. “They can go online to live prayer. We’ve got people ready to pray for them on the spot. In many ways, we’re having a greater impact this way.”

Tim Hart-Andersen, senior pastor at Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis, said attendance there is way up since moving online.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We frankly thought we’d see a drop,” Hart-Andersen said. “I think it says something about what people need. They need connection. They crave community.”

It’s Ramadan, and Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, says people are yearning to gather.

“It is significantly more successful than we thought it would be. It is, however, not like the real thing,” Zaman said. “It’s disconcerting, it’s hard. Ramadan is a month of deep community engagement.”

Despite that need, most feel it will be a while before anyone will worship together in person.

“I don’t think it is only the governor’s order that’s holding things back. There are concerns about safety and how we keep our people safe,” Zaman said.

Hummel echoed that thought.

“People are excited to come back, but the truth is there are a lot of people that are also nervous about it,” Hummel said.

Hart-Andersen says he doesn’t expect most worshipers to fully return until 2021. So until then, faith will have to prevail.

“It helps us ask, ‘So what really matters?’” Zaman said.

None of the religious leaders WCCO spoke with for this story plan to have even small groups of 10 or less gather anytime soon.

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