Nearly two-thirds of American Christians are uncomfortable with returning to in-person worship services over coronavirus concerns, according to a recent survey.
The American Enterprise Institute conducted a poll of 3,504 Americans from late May to early June, asking them about their comfort levels on returning to church.
Among respondents, 64% said they were either “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with returning to in-person church services.
“People are equivocating and uncertain about whether they feel comfortable attending,” said Daniel Cox, who oversaw the study, to The Associated Press and Religion News Service.
“We're seeing among laypeople a significant amount of discomfort in going back to formal in-person religious practices.”
While most of the overall sample were uncomfortable, the AEI survey found considerable variance in responses by racial and religious classification.
White evangelical Protestants were the most comfortable with attending services, with 61% saying they were either “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with attending.
By contrast, only 26% of Hispanic Catholic respondents said they were either “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” with attending in-person services.
Among black Protestants, 42% said they were “very uncomfortable” with attending, which was the same percentage for respondents who identified as “major non-Christian religion.”
Respondents who identified as “unaffiliated” were the most likely to say they would be “very uncomfortable,” at 66%, with only 8% of that group saying they would be “very comfortable.”
In response to the spread of the coronavirus, the vast majority of churches in the United States opted to shut their doors, with most moving their worship to exclusively online services.
As states have begun to reopen, many churches have done the same, often with safety measures, including spacing out attendees, barring physical contact, and wearing face masks.
Many churches have remained closed as a precaution after a couple of churches that reopened have found themselves reclosing amid new COVID-19 cases emerging among attendees.
Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly Stated Clerk the Rev. Herbert J. Nelson, head of the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S., recently urged caution with reopening.
In a video posted online earlier this month, Nelson said that while worship is important, churches should “take our time” and “not rush” into reopening for in-person services.
“Recognize that we are still in the midst of this coronavirus,” said Nelson. “The practices that many of you have continued to push through that had been created out of your own imagination even when we were unable to go into sanctuaries and other church buildings, expand upon that."
“Allow us to take this slowly and to recognize in all things that we are to be the persons who help to build the abundant life that individuals seek on this side of Heaven.”