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Churches nationwide see decline in memberships

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 5:01 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Hundreds of people drove through the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Thursday celebrating the start of the Easter weekend by viewing a social distant “Trail of the Tomb in the church parking lot.

Alan and Barbra Erickson were one of those couples viewing the different stages of the last week of Jesus’ life acted out by volunteers.

“I think they’ve done a nice job of the different areas and trying something different,” said Barbra.

The drive-through Easter experience mirrored the church’s popular Christmas event, where thousands came to view a nativity scene. Church organizers hoped this event would bring back members. Nationwide, organized religion has seen a drop in membership. For the first time since the ’30s, fewer than half of Americans could say they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, according to Gallup. COVID-19 wasn’t helping matters.

“I think every church was down on some level because people were concerned about coming back to large gatherings,” said Senior Pastor Paul Hennings.

Pre-pandemic, Henning said his congregation was around 700 worshipers at weekly services. Now it was closer to 400. With social distancing in place, he said they couldn’t safely get all of the members back inside if they wanted to.

“Even at this point, we can’t hold what we used to hold to reach our capacity,” he said.

While the Erickson’s were back to in-person services, they said some of their friends were going to wait a little longer.

“We have some friends that have not attended church, but they’re watching online on a regular basis until they feel more comfortable.”

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