Tuesday, January 23, 2024

VIDEO: Multifaith Patterns

In this webinar co-sponsored by Faith Communities Today, learn about the ways different faith groups have responded to the challenges of the pandemic.

This webinar is part of an ongoing webinar series. Each week the institute will offer a lunchtime webinar and Q&A period to explore the latest church research and insights for beginning the ministry year full of optimism and direction. Thursdays 12:15-1:30 p.m. EST.

Register for our webinar series here.

Below is an edited Q&A transcript from the webinar:

Is there a lack of technological knowledge in the communities? 

Aaron Spiegel, Synagogue Studies Institute: I don’t think it’s a technology issue, and this is totally anecdotal, has no data behind it, but especially over the pandemic as I watched virtual services they were not the people I expected to be very tech…savvy? It was seniors and older folks who seem to embrace the idea quickly and again, anecdotally. A lot of the folks are still attending virtually; it is that same demographic.

Mike McMullen, University of Houston-Clear Lake: I agree with Aaron and it found when I talked to many Baha’is that they love the convenience of online meeting and worship, especially Scripture study and that kind of thing. You could be in your pajamas and have your cup of coffee and not have to drive across the city to to go to something. But over and over people complained about the lack of kind of personal connection to people. You were a spectator in some ways, and so the convenience versus the lack of personal connection. It’s a love hate kind of thing, I think, and I think that’s true. That’s true of my students at the university. That’s true of other meetings. I think we’re still trying to figure out how you maintain community while embracing the convenience.

Allison Norton, Hartford Institute for Religion Research: I’ll just agree with my colleagues here and say, although there are obviously some barriers to online participation for certain communities I’ve been surprised. I think early on there was a lot of fear that none of the old people will be able to do Zoom church and, behold, you look across churches and you often find large portions of the online participants being 65 or older. Even among our comparisons on majority Black congregations, compared to multi-racial or majority white congregations, you might think, because of systemic injustices and other things that might provide barriers for majority,Black congregants to engage online. Instead, we see kind of this remarkable reality where majority black congregations were least likely to meet only in person, and our latest survey and had embraced hybrid worship at higher levels, where 83% of majority Black congregations engage in hybrid worship compared to 75% of majority, white and multiracial. So I think it’s a in large part, it’s a story of really significant adaptation and change of congregations. But I think a continued need to think about is how do we right create thesespaces that are inclusive to many folks?

Is the popularity of online synagogue attendance and the growth of that connected to feeling safe because of the increase in antisemitism over the last few years?

Aaron Spiegel: I actually think the answer is, no, at least not systemically. We know it wasn’t that during the pandemic and each year since 2020 antisemitism has hit new highs, and in some ways it might have had the opposite effect getting people to be in community. Some of the largest gatherings that I’ve seen were right after Oct. 7 when we were getting thousands of people gathering in support. So the honest answer is: I don’t know for sure. It’s something that will be interesting to see when we do the next survey, if as we can track it since the last one. But what I what I hear mostly from folks is they just like staying in their house and participating that way.

How much money was invested on average, to purchase equipment, to get up to the online place where we’re at this day and age?

Aaron Spiegel: I have an indirect answer to this. Coming out of the pandemic, the organization I was I was working for, which made grants to congregations, did one specifically for technology, for worship around the pandemic that was a maximum grant of $5,000. It was a matching grant, and it was took us by surprise how many people applied. A lot. And for the maximum amount of money, and from reading grant applications I’d say most of the congregations were spending between 5,000- $7,500 on specifically technology for worship. Just again, anecdotal, I preached at an Episcopal church this weekend – a very High Church Episcopal congregation, and I was stunned by the level of streaming technology they had there. I only realized that afterwards, when they posted my sermon online and how good the video and audio quality work. So yeah, it’s not. It’s not cheap.

Mike McMullen: On the other end of the spectrum I’ve been involved in some Baha’i Scripture studies where they’re using the lowest level of Zoom available, which I believe only goes 40 minutes. After 40 minutes it’s gonna ‘cut off. And so you gotta’ log back in. But I’ll I think some of the level of virtual worship is facilitated by a lot of this software is free. Now, as Aaron says, you know, high production quality stuff is requires money. So it depends on the community, I guess.

Allison Norton: Look at Heidi Campbell’s research, at least for the congregations in Indiana, because she’s got some good data on her project around this. But I was also thinking about how it takes more than money. And there are some sort of human resources needed on on this as well. And also sort of anecdotally looking at our our qualitative work and and some of our case studies we had middle aged pastors talking about their young adult children stepping in and sort of helping them navigate. How do we do Facebook live? And what does this look like? And and how we make this very rapid shift, and I think, early on it was a quick sort of do with what we can. And it’s your laptop and your phone and whatever for for small congregations who didn’t already have the infrastructure. And I think the question around resources and money is really impacting those who maybe didn’t have the infrastructure before the pandemic.

What is the giving paradigm that may have kept giving constant through the pandemic?

Aaron Spiegel: For better or worse, synagogues are based on a membership model. It’s changed over the years, but it it’s still pretty consistent to be a member of a congregation. My assumption is that people continued to make their membership gift over the year, so giving didn’t change much.