Dr Ruth Powell, assistant professor in the school of theology at Charles Sturt University, said she had heard many stories of people seeking to connect to churches during the pandemic.
She says the pre-pandemic research she conducted also showed that newcomers to churches tend to be younger adults who often belong before they believe.
“Sometimes it takes a crisis for someone to say ‘I’m not happy with the way things are going in my life’ and that’s often a time to consider faith.”
Dr Powell observed two pandemic trends.
“One is that people who haven’t been connected to the community see that their local religious community is an option for them,” she says.
The other is rusty devotees, who have found new options online. “Using the Christian example, you can go to church anywhere in the world, you can visit the cathedral, you can visit the great Pentecostal mega church. It was also a disturbance from that point of view.
Dr Powell is the NCLS research director, who surveyed 1,300 Australians in December and found that 45% had used spiritual practices in 2020.
Of these, 15% used spiritual practices more in 2020 compared to 2019, 24% about the same and 6% less.
In March 2020 – when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic – Jeanet Bentzen, associate professor of economics at the University of Copenhagen, analyzed daily data on Google searches in 95 country.
She found prayer searches (compared to all Google searches) to be at the highest level ever. “We pray to face adversity,” writes Bentzen in the summary of In crisis we pray.
Social science researcher Mark McCrindle also surveyed over 1,000 Australians last year and found that 35% said they prayed more and 41% thought more of God.
Adel Salman of the Islamic Council of Victoria says the pandemic has highlighted the importance of the mosque in the lives of Muslims.
He says the number of people attending Friday prayers the week before the lockdown had returned to pre-pandemic levels at the mosque he frequents in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
Mr Salman said some mosques are holding multiple sessions to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
“There is a spiritual void if you cannot come to the mosque for Friday prayers or for important events – it leaves a very big void in people’s lives. “
Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann of the ARK Center in East Hawthorn noticed a big difference between the first two and the second two blockages.
After the first two, there were waiting lists to attend synagogue. He would love to say that they had found God or that they were there for his sermons, he jokes, but “they were coming for fellowship.”
But the two second blockages took their toll. “The third and fourth blockades were detrimental to people’s morale, I will not say beliefs, because Jews are inherently believers. “
Rabbi Gabi says after each lockdown he must start over to give his congregation confidence that it is safe to return to the synagogue.
The Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement – “the Grand Final of Jewish participation in synagogue services” – come in September. “I am thrilled because we will see a huge increase in attendance and hopefully rebuild morale, confidence and participation of people in synagogue life. “
One thing that strikes Professor Bryan Turner of the Australian Catholic University, one of the world’s leading sociologists of religion, is that churches have not really offered a theological narrative for COVID-19.
“What is the significance of 1000 deaths in England in one day in April 2020?” German sociologist Max Weber argued that science was not up to the task of creating meaning, ”he wrote in Is COVID-19 Is History’s Dance of Death? “
Professor Turner said Age he was always waiting for churches to come up with something that made sense of people.
“I think it’s difficult for the church to come up with anything encouraging about what we’re seeing, but the Christian message is ultimately a message of hope.”
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