Reports Say Giving Down at Churches, Local Congregations Say Otherwise
Every Sunday, Pastors T. Michael Rock and Kathy Itzin of Robbinsdale Parkway United Church of Christ lead worship service for the 300 members of their congregation.
Since the pandemic hit, they’ve taken the one surefire step to ensure social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“So we’ve not ever had a group of people in this sanctuary since March,” Rock said.
That’s 10 months of conducting their services almost entirely online, rather than in the traditional confines of the sanctuary.
“Our primary concern is the health and safety and care of our people and our community,” he said.
Meanwhile at Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, they’ve embraced the live-streaming platform as well, although not at quite the same level as the folks in Robbinsdale.
“So we have had six, seven months really to get ready for bringing people back into the building,” said Jason Beaver, executive director of Calvary Lutheran.
Part of getting ready included making upgrades to their air filtration system. It also helps that Calvary Lutheran has 170,000 square feet of space available, which allows them to spread people out for in-person services.
“Right now we have services in-person in this room and you can see that we’ve kind of set our room up with all of these green tabs so people know where they can sit and where they shouldn’t be sitting,” Beaver said.
In-person attendance, however, is still a fraction of what it used to be at Calvary Lutheran, due to state guidelines and many people choosing the online viewing option. Yet Beaver says financial contributions haven’t suffered.
“We do have a small dip in contributions over the past year, but by and large, we consider ourselves very fortunate to have very generous membership,” he said.
Back in Robbinsdale, even though they’re approaching a year of no in-person service, the pastor says people who have the means to give haven’t held back.
“Several of our members got together with their first relief checks and said, ‘We don’t need this. So we’re going to give it to the church, and the church is gonna distribute that money to people who are really in need,'” Rock said.
Rock also added that the church set up an online donation platform about ten years ago, and many congregants easily give that way.
Experts credit the switch to digital formats as a big reason why some churches have been able to survive, and in some cases, thrive during the pandemic.
And while it remains to be seen when the world will return to normal, leaders at Robbinsdale Parkway UCC and Calvary Lutheran say the online format is here to stay.
“We will never go back to only in-person service,” Rock said. “We will always have a live stream component to what we do because we can reach so many people, and that’s a gift.”