Understanding the Pandemic Impact on Black and Multiracial Congregations

A new study from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research reveals the disproportionate toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black churches compared to white congregations. While both groups faced declines in attendance, finances, and clergy wellbeing over the past three years, the drops were more severe for Black churches. Only 50% reported stable or improved finances since 2018, versus 65% of white churches. Alarmingly, intent to leave the ministry rose 15% among Black clergy.

Despite these challenges, Black churches demonstrated remarkable adaptability and commitment to community service throughout the crisis. 99% encouraged COVID vaccinations, over double the rate of white church leaders. They also offered their buildings for testing and vaccination at more than twice the rate of white congregations.

The report praises the resilience of Black congregations in utilizing technology and sustaining engagement with their communities during an extraordinarily difficult period. It calls for increased support, financial and through partnerships, to alleviate systemic burdens facing these vital faith institutions.

This is just one wave of a collaborative, five-year research project funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and led by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace. We will continue to release targeted analyses of more specific findings from our topical surveys. Our previous reports can be found here.

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