Houses of worship slow to rebound from COVID-19

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Posted at 5:14 PM, Sep 13, 2021

GETZVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — “Being with people and being able to receive the Eucharist are my great delights.”

Attending mass inside St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Getzville feels like home to parishioner Therese Ketterer.

“It’s very, very good to be back,” she explained.

The 74-year old from Williamsville has been a parishioner for 42 years. She said she isn’t taking in-person services for granted since the church re-opened last June. “I’ve been here every single day since. I’m retired so I’m able to be here. And I thank god that we’re able to freely come back.”

Father Robert Wozniak said not all were as eager to attend in-person services once again, but attendance is slowly increasing. “When you see somebody who hasn’t been here in 18 months, they cry, and it’s nice to see that.”

According to a recent May 2021 Gallup poll, religious in person attendance is rebounding. But COVID’s impact has been significant. IN 2020, attendance fell to an all time low in more than eight decades of Gallop tracking. However, the poll shows it is up three percent from a year ago. Experts said a full rebound may not occur.

“It has been a trying year,” said Temple Beth Zion Board of Trustees President David Goldberg.

Goldberg said they began offering in-person services over the summer after being strictly virtual for the better part of a year. Goldberg said attendance isn’t what it was pre-pandemic. “About half of the people that were zooming in are starting to come here and we’re still making sure that we can do virtual to allow them to see it, too.”

Like many religious organizations, Temple Beth Zion has seen a steady decline in membership over the last several decades. Goldberg said membership is down 10 percent in the last year but it stems from a number of factors, not because of COVID, specifically.

“Some are political, some are social, some are financial, and some are COVID,” he said. “There’s a financial hit. People wonder why do I have to continue to pay dues if I can log in from home and watch services from synagogues from other parts of the country. But, the impact hasn’t been near as bad as we thought it was,” Goldberg added.

The temple has a COVID task force which Goldberg said plans to continue meeting for the foreseeable future. He said they also plan to offer virtual services indefinitely. “As we’re doing in person, we will also be streaming and doing it virtually because we do have members that have expressed I can’t come out. I don’t want to come out. Our safety of our congregants is utmost.”

St. Pius X also plans to continue offering virtual services. While attendance is down, donations are not. Father Wozniak said those remain flat. Wozniak hopes the rise in COVID cases doesn’t have a major impact on church services, but he said time will tell.