The EPIC project – Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations: Innovation Amidst and Beyond COVID-19 – has a $300,000 planning grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. that allows it to prepare for a major research effort ahead. But that doesn’t mean it’s not already reaching out to begin conversations about how congregational life in the U.S. has changed during the pandemic.
Tracy Simmons, a writer working on the project with the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (HIRR), has published a column that asks clergy, lay people, and worshipers to offer the stories that have gone unreported in their communities.
“Besides the obvious – church in jammies – how has congregational life changed for you? How has your faith community changed? How has ministry changed? How has your spiritual growth changed? How would you say the health and vitality of your church is now, and what do you think it will look like in the coming years as a result of the pandemic? Also, what would you like to learn from other congregations walking in your shoes?”
Respondents are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org with their thoughts.
Dr. Scott Thumma, Professor of Sociology of Religion and HIRR’s Director, is the principal investigator of the project. In the column, he said: “In the future, congregational life could end up being a different reality. We want to capture the process of how it changes and the leadership required to make this happen.”
The planning grant funds six months of research to create a plan for a long-term study that tracks how congregations are changing, innovating and establishing new behaviors as a result of the pandemic.