Father Andrew James and Bishop Richard Umbers are seen live-streaming 'The Celebration of the Passion of The Lord' service at St Paul of the Cross Church on April 10, 2020 in Dulwich Hill, Australia. With religious services and congregations banned due to COVID-19 restrictions, churches are adapting their services to connect with parishioners online through email, website, live streamings and service pre-recordings. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Canadian faithful stream religious services, pray more, but donate less: poll

As many Canadians prepare to mark their second Easter amid growing restrictions due to the pandemic’s third wave, a new survey shows they have adapted remarkably well to the new reality of live streamed religious services even as they crave the return to in-person worship unencumbered by public health restrictions.

The study by the Angus Reid Institute conducted in partnership with Cardus think-tank found that pandemic restrictions on places of worship have led to more personal prayer but less connection to a sense of religious community.

The study, which canvassed the views of 1,059 Canadian adults who attended religious services at least once per month pre-pandemic, also found that almost half of them long for a return to in-person worship.

But nearly four-in-ten among those who’ve had an opportunity to attend in-person religious services under pandemic restrictions, described the experience as less satisfying.

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend Sunday Service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, February 21, 2021. B.C. Supreme Court denied an application from the province last week for an injunction against three Fraser Valley churches that continue to hold in person worship which is forbidden under B.C. health orders due to COVID-19. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Evangelical Protestants feel these impacts most strongly, with half saying that public health precautions have negatively impacted their experience at in-person worship.

Online services have been a lifeline for those craving contact with their churches, temples, and synagogues, the report noted.

More than three-quarters of Canadians who regularly attended religious services pre-pandemic said they’ve streamed or “attended” a religious service online, most of them on a regular basis, the study found.

Indeed, most respondents said they would like their congregations to maintain the availability of online services rather than discontinue them once the pandemic is over.

Reverend Lucy Price, back centre, wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 as she speaks before blessing pets during a small physically-distanced outdoor service to mark St. Francis Day, at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 4, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

When asked how public health restrictions on places of worship in their province compare to other public venues, two-in-five say they have been unfairly harsh.

Roman Catholics, in particular, mentioned missing Holy Communion because of restrictions on services.

Whatever religious tradition they follow, Canadian faithful said they are yearning for a sense of community, the survey found.

When asked what aspect of physical services they miss most, half mentioned the sense of kinship and unity that comes of being around others.

Two-in-five said being present for a physical service or given ritual creates more of a powerful experience that cannot be fully replicated online.

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