In many places of worship it’s army on religious days than it was before the corona crisis. On June 1, after two months, houses of worship were allowed to reopen for a limited time with a maximum of thirty visitors; a month later, the number of visitors was increased to a maximum of one hundred. But in many churches and mosques these numbers are not reached.
According to the religious communities, the group of people who are now staying away have various reasons not to come. There are elderly people who do not dare because of the coronavirus. There are also people who find it a hassle to make reservations for the service in advance. Other people like to follow a service online from the comfort of their armchair. But there are also people whose reasons for not coming are less clear.
“People have been saying to us and to each other for months: we miss it, we miss the services”, says Reverend Thea de Ruijter of the Protestant Congregation Dronten. “We thought it would be a problem, with those thirty places. But the registrations stayed behind.” Because the thirty was not reached the church decided not to increase the maximum number of visitors in July to 100.
Many churchgoers in Dronten looked at the service via the internet the past few months, they say:
According to the Protestant Church of the Netherlands, pastors are wondering how to proceed, because the physical church is considered important for the faith community. Today on starting Sunday, the first Sunday of September where the Protestant churches usher in the new church year, they hope that stayed away churchgoers will return.
For the first time, more than thirty people are welcome in Dronten today. Reverend de Ruijter would like to see the young families come back, now that for the first time there is a babysitter again during the service. That group stayed away more often than other groups during the past months.
The mosques are also army. Vulnerable believers are afraid to come together, but according to vice-chairman Saïd Bouharrou of the Council of Moroccan Mosques, there are also people who don’t come because the prayer has to be one and a half metres away from other believers. According to them the prayer is not valid that way.
There are also concerns about the finances. For example, some mosques have not yet opened at all, while the costs are continuing and the income from collections is therefore lagging behind. This is also a problem the mosques that are open are facing, now that it’s quieter. Some of them are compensated by Tikkie, but not everything. The Moroccan mosques do attract a new group: people with a Syrian background. They don’t have an explanation for this.
The Central Jewish Consultation also sees that the elderly stay away. The meetings are not full, but here too they see a new group of visitors. “Because we immediately organised extra online meetings, we notice that a new group of young people are looking for meaning and are now attending the physical meetings,” says chairman Eddo Verdoner.
Religious scientist Joris Kregting thinks that the decline in the number of churchgoers due to the corona crisis will be even faster. Every year he maps out how many people go to the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. That number decreases by 5 to 10 percent each year.
Kregting expects that especially in the Catholic and Protestant churches the number of visitors will decrease. In the small churches this will be less, is his expectation. These churches function much more as a social community than the large popular churches.
It is too early for the PKN and the Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands to draw any conclusions. There are churches where the number of visitors, within the limitations of the coronavirus measures, is at the same level. The expectation is that a possible vaccine will lead to the return of a group of religious. Moreover, there is the hope that the rest will be able to find their way back to the church.