Hartford Seminary will conduct research into how congregations have changed their practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and which, if any, of those changes will endure into the future.
According to The Christian Post, the Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research received a $5.3 million grant from the Lilly Foundation to carry out the study.
“This moment is such a critical time for congregations. If churches can leverage the creative adaptations in response to the pandemic, the struggles of the last 18 months might lead to the revitalization of spiritual and worship practices,” said Hartford Institute for Religion Research director Scott Thumma.
“Our team is thrilled to be given this opportunity to take an active role in tracking that unfolding reality across the United States. We deeply appreciate the Lilly Endowment’s faith in our project and our team’s ability to undertake this vital exploration,” he added.
Thumma also recognized how the grant could help congregations, pointing out that, “If churches can leverage the creative adaptations in response to the pandemic, the struggles of the last 18 months might lead to the revitalization of spiritual and worship practices.”
Hartford Seminary President Joel Lohr said he “Could not be more proud” of the school receiving the grant. He explained its significance, saying, “Not only is the grant award substantial, but the research it will support is incredibly important, building upon the outstanding 40-year history of the HIRR.”
One major emphasis for the project will be studying the impact of COVID-19 on minority congregations. “Recognizing the many racial disparities with infection rates and vaccine distribution, this project will oversample congregations of color and work closely with partner organizations to ensure that the intersections of public health, religious congregations and race are accounted for within our research,” the project’s website reads.
A recent study showed that COVID-19 had a disproportionate effect on Black churches and that 40 percent of Black congregants want to continue using a hybrid model for meeting. The study said that “the pandemic pushed Black church pastors to innovate and challenged their ability to disciple people digitally during the pandemic. Even now, as churches emerge from COVID-era regulations, pastors and their people wonder if or how these shifts will continue to shape the trajectory of their ministry strategy.”
The Lilly Foundation is a nonprofit created by Eli Lilly & Company’s namesake family. It focuses on Education, Community Development, and Religion.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Christin Lola
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”