A majority (76%) of U.S. adults who typically attend religious services at least monthly are confident that they now can safely attend an in-person faith gathering, according to a Pew Research Center report published March 22.
This is a 12-point increase from July 2020, and it aligns closely with other trends found in the report.
There was a nine-point increase in adults who attended in-person religious services in the past month from July 2020 to March 2021 (up to 42%), and a seven-point decrease in adults who watched a live-streaming service in the last month over the same time period (down to 65%).
Respondents who say their congregation should be “open, but with COVID-19 restrictions” remained steady, ticking up one point to 58% from July 2020 to March 2021.
Exactly half of all respondents believe both social distancing and masks should be mandatory at in-person services, with 42% saying capacity should be restricted, 29% that communal singing should be limited, and 23% that services should be held outside.
The most notable change was a 13-point decrease (to 15%) of respondents who said houses of faith should be “closed for in-person services,” and a 13-point increase (to 26%) of those who believe congregations should be “open as normal.”
Only 17% of all respondents said their congregation is still closed for in-person services (down 14 points from July 2020), while 64% said that their house of faith is open with restrictions (up nine points) and 12% that it is open as normal (up six points).
Even as confidence in safe in-person attendance increases, along with the number of congregations holding in-person services in some form or fashion, a strong majority of all respondents (82%) say their congregation continues to stream or record services.
Despite the high confidence in the ability to safely attend in-person services and the 84% who believe congregations should be open in some capacity, only 39% of U.S. Christians plan to attend Easter services in person. On average, 62% of Christian adults in the U.S. have attended in person on Easter.
Evangelical Protestants are the most likely group to say they plan to attend in-person Easter services (52%), followed by Catholics (36%), historically Black Protestants (31%) and Mainline Protestants (27%).
White, non-Hispanic Christians are most likely to plan to attend in person on Easter Sunday (41%), compared to 37% of Hispanic Christians and 32% of Black, non-Hispanic Christians.
All of these figures are well below the historical averages for each group’s Easter Sunday attendance rates.