By David Paulsen
Episcopal News Service
The Episcopal Church has released parochial report data for 2021. The summaries of churchwide membership, attendance and revenue figures offer the fullest statistical picture yet of the unprecedented disruption to parish life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a one-year snapshot, the release shows a sharp decrease in Sunday attendance during the first full year of the pandemic, when COVID-19 vaccines were just becoming available, subvariants were fueling new outbreaks, some congregations still worshipped only online and many worshipers remained reluctant to gather in person.
Churchwide, average Sunday attendance in 2021 barely rose above 300,000, down by 43% from pre-pandemic counts. The 2021 reports offer the first churchwide data on pandemic attendance; the 2020 reports only counted attendance for the first 12 weeks of that year.
The number of active baptized members, though down by more than 3% for the second straight year, is nearly in line with recent historical trends, showing a more gradual decline that is mirrored by other mainline Protestant denominations. The pandemic, meanwhile, did not halt the ongoing trend of rising pledges. The average Episcopal pledge increased in 2021 to $3,339, and overall plate and pledge income was up more than 3% for the year.
“The pandemic called us to get real about what matters, and we’ve learned some things that I hope we don’t forget,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in an interview with ENS. “The truth is, we do need human community,” he said, and faith communities are “vitally important” in fostering connection between people.
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