After six months of remote services, committees, fellowship, and interest groups, the Worship Committee and the Committee on Ministry developed a survey to evaluate First Parish’s response to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighty-three surveys were completed and shared with Church staff. The names of the respondents were not shared. The nine-question survey elicited many comments about adult and youth experiences at First Parish.
Generally, the survey responses were positive about worship, with more than half the respondents feeling “connected,” “informed,” and “grounded”. For others, remote services were not as satisfying as regular worship and a few found remote services “cold” and “impersonal.” Others missed the live music, the calm and beauty of our sanctuary, and the focus of in-person worship. Most respondents liked the familiarity of the service format. The most frequent criticisms were about the directions for making financial contributions. About half of the respondents felt the directions took too long, were not necessary and/or were distracting. Other negative comments included: the empty sanctuary is too “sterile” and uninviting; hymns are meant to be sung in community and not as a “performance” by one or two people. Several people singled out the “Time for All Ages” as a bright and engaging part of the service. A familiar theme was “we’re doing the best we can in difficult and unfamiliar circumstances.
Zoom social hour elicited a greater mix of comments. Some appreciated the random groupings as an opportunity to meet new people and other missed the opportunity to check in with established friends and the camaraderie and physical presence of others.
Thursday night vespers, lyceum, small group ministry, writing groups, and social hour were cited by several respondents as important. Youth Religious Education, while not pertinent to 64 respondents, received mixed reviews. Those attending virtual RE have enjoyed the programming but, as one responded noted, “Kids are too zoom-weary with school to add church-related screen time.” Song Squad was singled-out as an important social and community activity.
Overall, the reaction to the variety of activities offered was positive. Several surveys included comments similar to these: “An admirable effort in a difficult situation” and “Commendable efforts.” Special thanks were offered to the technical team. One respondent suggested adding some in-person, outdoor activities when the weather improves. Perhaps one comment captures our current experience best: “Virtual isn’t the same feel as in-person.”
Many thanks to Rev. Catie, Roberta, Jenna, the Worship Committee and the Committee on Ministry and all who answered the survey. We will continue to talk and consider ways to make worship and programs at First Parish involvement meaningful and fulfilling for us all.