The News-Times

Across U.S., houses of worship struggle to rebuild attendance


When Westminste­r United Methodist Church in Houston resumed in-person services late last year, after a seven-month halt due to COVID-19, there were Sundays when only three worshipper­s showed up, according to the pastor, Meredith Mills.

Since then, attendance has inched back up, but it’s still only about half the pre-pandemic turnout of 160 or 170, Mills estimates.

“It’s frustratin­g,” she said. “People just seem to want to leave home less these days.”

Some houses of worship are faring better than Mills’ church, some worse. Polls by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows how dramatical­ly church attendance fell during the worst of the pandemic last year, even as many say they are now returning to regular service attendance.

Among mainline Protestant­s, just 1 percent said in a May 2020 poll that they were attending in-person services at least once a week. In the new poll, 14 percent say they’re doing so now, compared to 16 percent who say they did in 2019.

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