Will worship be worry-free again? | Faith matters


2022 is the third year we’ve been dealing with COVID, and we don’t know what the future holds. It’s troubling for many of the clergy who are just bouncing back.

One thing is certain: like in most professions, normalcy may never return.

Reverend Mark Schol, 40, United Methodist pastor, believes we will never return to churches from the 1940s to the 1990s, when the Sunday church was the primary form of worship. Even before the virus, he saw new trends.

“Other ways of expressing faith are emerging,” he said.

In July 2020, Schol hired a second church, the Hoboken Community Church, and moved in with his wife and two daughters to the neighboring rectory. He also continues to pastor Christ United Methodist at Arbor Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City, which was the church of the late Betty Foley, the Jersey Journal’s longtime religious editor.

Both churches have a small number of registrants and even fewer participants.

Last Easter, the church reopened after being closed for a year due to COVID, but not everyone who had attended before returned. Still, Schol noticed that his YouTube services nearly tripled attendance when the church was closed.

“The Good News is still there, but how do you hold back people who have a view of the gospel that does not include the church? Schol asked.

Members of the United Methodist Relief Committee recently volunteered at The United Methodist Church of Christ in Jersey City, helping to clean up the damage caused by Hurricane Ida.

Reverend Bryan Page agrees.

“I think we’re going to have to change,” said Page, the pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church in the Paulus Hook branch of Jersey City.

We need more small faith-sharing experiences, he said, and more investment of time and resources to enable people to share their faith with one another.

“This is what will bring people back to the sacraments,” he said.

The OLC attracts many young adults to the area and the church has rebounded to some extent. With a church seating around 200 people, around 180 people attend its largest Sunday mass.

Page, 44, however, live-streamed Mass when churches were closed because “it destroyed the connection with the sacraments.”

Some churches continued to do this even when they held masses in person. But once the Archbishop’s COVID emergency waiver to miss mass was lifted, Page stopped.

This digital option, however, spawns other ways of being a church.

Godwin Rose Samuel, a second-generation tech expert and Protestant from India, for example, founded Rovinsa LLC, which is piloting a new social network, FaithMeet, for the Christian community with faith-based content sourced from churches around the world.

“It’s a one-stop destination for digital worship,” he told me over the phone from Singapore.

Because of this, he said, people will no longer need to go to secular digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter to connect with churches.

FaithMeet will provide quick responses to prayer requests, the ability to provide tithes and offerings to churches and ministries of their interest, and access to content from various churches including videos and songs, he said. . He hopes it will be up and running by next month.

So far, 300 people from all over have registered with interest in the platform. Churches can sign up for free to be included with basic information, but more elaborate pages will require a monthly fee. And there will be a fee for joining a donation plan. Samuel said he had dreamed of doing this project for three years.

Reverend Joseph Girone, a priest for nearly 40 years, still defends the traditional way of being ecclesiastical – Sunday worship inside the church – as has been the case with his entire priesthood, “to come together in community to see each other to pray. He saw his Hispanic members of St. Rocco Roman Catholic Church in Union City as the strongest to return to church; not so much, the Anglos. comfortable with live broadcasting.On the whole, he has seen a decline in parishioners “who want to be together”.

“I believe we can go back,” said deacon Andre Williams, 55, of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Bayonne.

His church has around 200 members and before COVID, around 100 attended Sunday morning service at 11 a.m. each week. Now they attract around 25 to 30.

But forcing the church to use Facebook and other social media will be what he called “the new normal” and will affect their church, he said, at all levels.

Reverend Danielle McCleary agrees with Girone to some extent.

“Everyone’s expressing a desire to connect,” said McCleary, the new pastor of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Secaucus.

She asks, however, “How do we do this in the space and time of worship?” “

McCleary is a novice: ordained in September and taking her first church call from Secaucus (Lutheran churches choose or call a pastor and the bishop confirms the appointment).

At 28, she comes to a church with many longtime devotees who have bonded for decades; their annual Christmas bazaar is legendary and very successful. Most could be his grandparents.

She finds out that people have been divided politically, are afraid of how life has changed under COVID, and feel isolated.

“We need a healing experience to move forward,” she said.

With all members of the clergy, it’s important to foster connections in person or on social media. Time will tell where it all goes.

Reverend Alexander Santora is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph, 400 Willow Ave., Hoboken, NJ 07030. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @padrehoboken.

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