The #Post-PandemicChurch & Scientists Confirm the Power of In-Person Gatherings.

By Mya Jaradat, 7/18/21, Deseret News.

… However, now that it’s safe for many Americans to return to in-person worship, some religion experts are questioning why virtual church enthusiasts want to remain online. Online worship can be gratifying, but, both spiritually and sociologically, it often leaves something to be desired, said Dr. Andrew Newberg, a physician and neuroscientist who studies religious experiences.

“From what we know in general about how the brain works there is a kind of resonance that occurs when we’re with other people,” said Newberg, a pioneer in neurotheology. “The brain is designed to be social.”

Newberg pointed to the power of sacred architecture to illustrate his point. “If you walk into the Vatican — I don’t care what religion (you are) — when you walk into the Vatican, it’s hard not to feel something because of its grandeur,” he said. 

Even smaller houses of worship create a sense of awe, he added, noting that vaulted ceilings contribute to a feeling of “spacelessness” in the brain — a sensation that might help us feel a little less connected to our earthly concerns and more connected to the people around us and God. 

Seeing the Vatican through a screen, Newberg added, doesn’t pack the same neurological punch, in part because other sensory cues, like smell, are missing. Online worship, no matter how well it’s done, likely can’t affect us as deeply as in-person church does, he said. 

Dr. Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist and the director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, said that while researchers still don’t know exactly what accounts for the potency of in-person, group worship — “the research is a little behind there,” he said — it probably activates circuitry in the brain’s reward pathway. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine are likely involved, he said.

Research has also shown that being with a group — particularly when that group is engaged in some sort of activity that makes a positive contribution to society, like volunteering — leads to physiological changes that create a feeling of warmth. The metaphorical warmth that stems from being with others “has a physiological basis,” Koenig said.

Prior to COVID-19, almost all in-person services incorporated some element of touch, as well, which also creates a sense of well-being, he added.

“As a psychiatrist, even though we’ve got COVID-19, I always touch (my patients) when they leave the room. That physical touch is critical,” Koenig said.

In general, face-to-face interactions and group activities, including worship, create “collective effervescence,” wrote Adam Grant recently in The New York Times, using a coin termed by the famed French sociologist Émile Durkheim. Take the collective out — or put it behind a screen — and the experience is flattened.

However, Newberg noted that religious believers who live in isolation, like some monks and nuns, certainly do have religious experiences. So while the in-person, group aspect of worship is important, it’s not essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a religious experience.

Similarly, Teresa Berger, a professor of liturgical studies and Catholic theology at Yale Divinity School, said just because someone comes to an in-person worship service doesn’t mean they’re mentally engaged.

“Some of them, quite honestly, in their minds are going to be elsewhere,” she said.

Theologically speaking, Berger added, “The decisive element is a community gathered — and I don’t mean gathered only physically but gathered in a multitude of ways, some of them could be digitally mediated — around seeking to encounter a divine presence.”

Read more at … https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/7/18/22575707/are-churches-done-with-buildings-online-virtual-worship-congregations-covid-19-pandemic

WORSHIP & It’s time you started including these uptempo (allegro) worship songs for 2021 – both onsite & online. Thanks to #WorshipDeeper.

Thanks to Tim at Worship Deeper for this curated list:

And a few personal favorites of mine (Bob W):

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks – When streaming services, don’t require phone numbers and/or email addresses for people to register their presence (like the example pictured).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Worship registration “templates” often ask for too much information than visitors to your online service may be ready to give. Check your online registration site and ensure that phone numbers and email addresses are optional, not required like the example below. This example, from a client church that is making great strides in becoming visitor focused, was unaware it had this requirement.

STREAMING & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks – Make sure your streaming worship service starts precisely at the scheduled time (even if there is a delay starting the live service).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: To ensure your streaming service doesn’t have a second class feel, make sure that an online announcer greets online attendees at the scheduled start time. A blank screen will leave online attendees wondering if they’ve connected to the right website.

WORSHIP EVALUATION & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Music leaders, evaluate your streaming services later & catch inconsistencies.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:

I evaluated a client’s traditional service, but the pre-recorded exit music was techno rock. Status quo members feel at least an inconsistency, if not an insensitivity.

Technicians often choose the music played as people exit or when streaming the music played after the service concludes. But, technicians need to be on the same page as the worship leaders tasked with connecting with different cultures.

#MultiCultural #SundayChurchHacks

ONLINE CHURCH & Research finds mature Christians will return to in-person worship. Yet “seekers” are more likely to attend online worship. “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” in paperback & Kindle on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Bob-Whitesel/ my #14thBook. #Post-PandemicChurchBook.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Looking into this Pew research it is clear to me that while faithful parishioners will be back in-person once the pandemic is over, it is “the seekers” who are more likely to seek online worship. Therefore in the future a healthy church that reaches out to unchurched people must have a robust online ministry. This is why I call it the eReformation.

“Will the coronavirus permanently convert in-person worshippers to online streamers? They don’t think so” by Alan Cooperman, Pew Research, 8/17/20.

… most U.S. adults overall say that when the pandemic is over, they expect to go back to attending religious services in person as often as they did before the coronavirus outbreak.How we did this

Few expect pandemic to permanently alter their religious worship routines

To be sure, a substantial share of Americans (43%) say they didn’t attend religious services in person before the pandemic struck and they don’t plan to start going to a church or other house of worship when it’s all over. But 42% of U.S. adults say they plan to resume going to religious services about as often as they did before the outbreak, while 10% say they will go more often than they used to, and just 5% anticipate going less often.

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/17/will-the-coronavirus-permanently-convert-in-person-worshippers-to-online-streamers-they-dont-think-so/