COVID-19

How COVID-19 is changing church

Kimberly Adams and Maria Hollenhorst Dec 24, 2020
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The Rev. Chris Butler outside Chicago Embassy Church Network in South Holland, Illinois. Photo by Tanikia Carpenter, courtesy of Chicago Embassy Church Network
COVID-19

How COVID-19 is changing church

Kimberly Adams and Maria Hollenhorst Dec 24, 2020
Heard on:
The Rev. Chris Butler outside Chicago Embassy Church Network in South Holland, Illinois. Photo by Tanikia Carpenter, courtesy of Chicago Embassy Church Network
HTML EMBED:
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Like most industries, churches and other faith-based organizations have been forced to adapt to survive 2020. 

“I really saw it as an opportunity,” said the Rev. Chris Butler, a pastor in the Chicago area who oversees two congregations that recently merged under the name Chicago Embassy Church Network and transitioned to virtual worship services in mid-March. 

“The opportunity to do things virtually gave us the chance to really think through, what are the essential elements of gathering?” Butler told “Marketplace’s” Kimberly Adams. “Gathering is such a core part of who we are, but what about our efforts to serve our communities?”

The Rev. Chris Butler leads a virtual church service for Chicago Embassy Church Network.
Behind the scenes of a virtual church service at Chicago Embassy Church Network. (Photo by Tanikia Carpenter, courtesy of Chicago Embassy Church Network)

According to projections from Feeding America, around 50 million people may experience food insecurity this year due to the pandemic. With Washington at odds for months over extending coronavirus relief aid, churches and other nonprofit organizations have helped fill gaps in the social safety net by providing food, clothing and other services to people in need. 

Butler’s church does not maintain a food pantry, but he said they’ve focused this year on helping with food distribution, providing a safe space for children to do remote schooling, working with health care organizations to provide COVID-19 testing for church members and nonmembers alike, and sharing health information.

“Those are all important components of being ‘the church,’ and so I really saw it as an opportunity for us to learn more into those other aspects of who we are.”

Church membership among U.S. adults has declined sharply in recent decades. “When any institution is experiencing that kind of decline, what you would need to do is reevaluate some of the things that you do,” said Butler. “What we have had, in the midst of this pandemic, as a church is an opportunity to really step back and reevaluate.”

Butler cited the rapid expansion of virtual church services across the country this year as one example of positive change. “I have people who tune in to the stream every week who never have — and probably never will — walk into the door of this building where I’m sitting,” he said. “And so, there’s an opportunity to rethink church, and I hope we take it.”

Click the audio player above to hear the interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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