The pandemic has and continues to affect so many aspects of our lives: from how we spend time with our family, to where and how we work, and how we spend our downtime. It also affects the way people practice their faith if they still do.
At the height of the pandemic, numerous houses of worship decided to or were forced to close the doors or minimize the number of people allowed inside.
Now with a vaccine available and as more is learned about COVID-19, some of the faithful have returned — but not all. KX News spoke with some church leaders about living through the pandemic and reaching out to those who are still hesitant about praying in the pews.
“We stopped in-person worship services. We stopped all of our youth programming. We pretty much stopped everything,” John Caranicas, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Pastor of Youth & Family Ministries, said.
It may be hard to imagine since it seems both so long ago and so recent, but Pastor John Caranicas, known to the congregation at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church as “Pastor Bob,” said the church just re-opened on Easter of 2021.
While churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bismarck were only closed for a few months in 2020, Monsignor Patrick Schumacher, pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church, said this pandemic hit Catholics just as hard.
“I’ve always said you know it would be a strange church if we were all priests and it would be a strange church if there were only people. And so, having no one at Mass was very difficult,” Monsignor Schumacher said.
Even more difficult for both men was that they both contracted and recovered from the coronavirus.
While the doors of North Dakota churches have reopened, not everyone has come back.
“Before the pandemic, about 2,400 people come [sic] to Mass here every Sunday. So, in September numbers, 2,400. Last year at this time, we had 900 attend and now we’re around 1,900,” Schumacher said.
“Before COVID, we were roughly in that 950 average worship attendance a week. We had six services. We’re at five services now and we were above 600, 640 somewhere,” Caranicas said.
Pastor Bob and Monsignor Schumacher said some of those people at home will stay at home and for good or at least until there’s no more talk of the coronavirus. They also recognize worshipping online has become a way to help keep those at home in the fold.
“There are a lot of people, for whatever reason, that are fed by an online community and they see themselves as part of a community online. So, even though a majority of our people are now returning to in-person worship, our online will never stop,” Caranicas said.
“We have provided options of online Mass still. We have increased our social media, we’ve increased what we do electronically, but you cannot drag people to Mass who are not going to be comfortable,” Schumacher said.
Call it a new normal or worshipping through the web, Monsignor Schumacher and Pastor Bob continue to pray for all, no matter where they worship.
As far as how the churches are doing from a financial standpoint, both men say their respective congregations have been and continue to be very generous, recognizing the need to continue and even increase their support during the pandemic.