By Cian Molloy - 24 May, 2020
How has COVID-19 and the new coronavirus pandemic affected your faith, your belief in God and your relationship with the Church? That’s the focus of a major study being carried out by the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education in conjunction with York St. John University which is investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on church-goers in England, Scotland and Wales.
The Irish study is being led by Dr Gareth Byrne, director of the Mater Dei Centre in Dublin, and his colleague, Dr Bernadette Sweetman, a post-doctoral researcher.
“The pandemic has obviously had a profound effect on churches,” admits Dr Byrne. “The lockdown has severely restricted ministry in areas such as pastoral care, fellowship groups, and serving the community. On the other hand, for those with online access, worship has taken on new and creative forms over the last few weeks. Many clergy and ministry teams have risen to the challenge of operating in the virtual environment.”
Mater Dei and York St. John University are of the opinion that, as we pass the most severe period of lockdown, it seems like a good time to assess how churchgoers are responding to the experience, and what they think the future might hold.
“How well have people coped?” asked Dr Byrne. “Has it strengthened or weakened their faith? How has it been for clergy and ministry teams trying to work in this new environment? How have those receiving ministry found this novel experience? Will virtual ministry become part of the post-pandemic landscape, and will this be a good move for your church?”
The online survey can be accessed here and takes about 20 minutes to complete.
“Most of the questions simply require you to tick boxes, though there are options to specify your particular circumstances, and an opportunity at the end for you to tell us your views in your own words,” explained Dr Sweetman. “Alongside questions about the pandemic and ministry, there are sections which ask about you: these are important because they will allow us to see how the lockdown is affecting different sorts of people in different contexts.”
She also had a final tip: “The survey can be completed on mobile phones, but it is more quickly completed on devices with larger screens such as tablets or computers.”