4 in 10 US Christians Plan to Attend In-Person Easter Services - Word&Way

4 in 10 US Christians Plan to Attend In-Person Easter Services

(RNS) — Americans are becoming more confident they can attend in-person religious services but church attendance at Easter services will still be far lower than usual this year, a new Pew Research poll finds.

The poll, conducted in early March among 12,055 Americans, finds the percentage of regular attenders who say they actually have attended religious services — in person — in the past month is slightly higher than it was in June, about 17%.

Among Christians, only 39% said they planned to go in person to church services this Easter Sunday (April 4), with White evangelicals the most likely to say they planned to — 52%. That’s far lower than the 62% of Christians of all kinds who typically attend services at Easter, the holiest day of the Christian year.

In this April 12, 2020 photo, Pastor Bill Bailey preaches to his congregation during a drive in Easter service at the Happy Gospel Center Church in Bradenton, Florida. (Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

The poll also found that people who attend religious services favor keeping a lot of the COVID-19 restrictions, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, in place.

Catholics, more than any other group, say their churches are open but operating with virus-related precautions in place: 79% are open but require social distancing, masking, and attendance limits. Overall, half of Christians say their congregations are open to in-person services while enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing.

The return to pre-pandemic levels of in-person religious attendance is much slower among Black Protestants. Only 21% said they are attending in-person services now and only 31% plan to attend at Easter — far lower than the 68% who typically attend. The pandemic has hit Black Americans especially hard, and that may be one reason.

About 80% of all religious attenders said their place of worship offers online services.

The poll also found an unsurprising political divide: Republicans who regularly attend services are more than twice as likely as Democrats who regularly attend services to say they recently attended in-person religious services (57% vs. 26%).