International | God, Mammon and real estate
Many need to sell their property; some branches will have to merge
Jan 8th 2022(Updated Jan 10th 2022) | BERLINShare
Ask a vicar, a rabbi or an imam about the biggest challenge facing his or her congregation, and the need to foster spiritual values in a secular world may leap off the tongue. Yet the world’s religions face an equally acute but different sort of problem: how to stay in business in a material, competitive sense. In religion as elsewhere, covid-19 has helped sort out winners and losers. Churches that were catering effectively to the needs of their flocks even before the pandemic have often thrived as people worry more about death—and in lockdown have found more time to spare for worship and prayer.
But churches that were already struggling have found it ever harder to retain their congregations. The pandemic has speeded a shift to online services, giving many of the once faithful an excuse to stop showing up. Many religious institutions closed their doors overnight, moving their services onto Zoom. Now, as their buildings reopen, they are uncertain about how many worshippers will return. If, as seems likely, fewer come back, two trends that were already noticeable may intensify. Many religious organisations will get rid of their underused properties. And more churches will merge.