Houses of Worship: Impact of the Pandemic
Updated: Feb 11
COVID-19 continues to impact how Houses of Worship serve their communities. Flexible solutions and versatile options were implemented as COVID raised its ugly head. Although some houses of worship were already sharing their services virtually even before the pandemic, most all quickly adapted to the online experience once these spaces were closed down to prevent the spread of this virus.
In addition to offering virtual programs and services, some congregations added outdoor venues where participants could maintain social distancing and feel more comfortable in the fresh air. You could see parking lots covered with lawn chairs and parked cars for those members wanting the in-person experience.
Many innovations sparked by COVID restrictions will remain long after the pandemic subsides. The design of houses of worship will reflect these effects. Sacred facilities will be redesigned and built to include things like touch-free entries, hygiene stations, flexible use of space with flexible furniture placement, ventilation systems that improve air quality and air movement and larger hallways with traffic patterns that eliminate close contact with others. Houses of worship will create permanent studio spaces to film, record, and stream content.
The big question for ministries is, “Will members want to come back to sacred spaces to worship?” The answer is yes and no. As we move forward, a hybrid approach for our spiritual needs seems to be the answer.
Those who have health and wellness concerns, time constraints and distance limits, and others who like the convenience of being able to participate from home will continue to appreciate the virtual services. These services include livestreaming weddings, funerals, and other sacred practices for loved ones unable to attend in person. The use of social media outlets to stay in touch with members will continue as well as digital donations. Children in religious education classes who join programs from home will ease the pressure of their families’ busy schedules. Holidays can be virtually celebrated with spiritual leaders.
As for in person gatherings, existing churches, temples, mosques, cathedrals, and synagogues are rethinking how to use these sacred spaces. Some are guided by religious customs while others are open to offering their space to the community. Spiritual leaders are rethinking and redesigning existing spaces to accommodate the new way people want to worship. Some houses of worship have even put their building desires on hold to see how they will best serve their congregation.
Flexibility and safety will be at the forefront of these religious designs. You will see the norm include a high volume of open areas with the increase in the functional square footage requirement of community space. Incorporating outdoor space for services will also provide safe options. Architects design spaces to fulfill certain functions based on the needs of the users. We see how the
needs of our culture have changed how and where we pray and worship.
Sacred architecture shows us the history of our different cultures. Going forward, the pandemic will be reflected in these sacred spaces. COVID-19 has certainly created the need for planning and designing for a new way of life that includes how we live, work, learn, play, relax, how we congregate, and how we worship.
This article shows how different sacred spaces have been designed and built around the world and over many, many years.