1 in 4 Brits have regularly engaged in online worship during lockdown

(Photo: Unsplash/Carolina Jacomin)

A significant proportion of the population has engaged with faith digitally during Covid-19, a study by researchers at Durham University has found.

The study by the Centre for Digital Theology at Durham University, in conjuction with Savanta ComRes, found that one in four Brits had engaged regularly in online organised worship during lockdown. 

The researchers compared offline faith engagement among UK adults before and after lockdown, focusing on six areas: prayer, meditation, corporate or organised worship, reflection on nature, choir and yoga. 

In real terms, researchers said attendance in online corporate religion rose from four million to 19 million over the course of the pandemic. 

In July, over a quarter of respondents (26%) said they had taken part in regular online worship - regular being defined as participating at least once a month - a figure that rose to three in 10 (29%) in August despite churches being allowed to re-open.

During the later stages of the lockdown, half of young people aged 18 to 34 said they regularly engaged in online faith-related activities, including prayer and corporate worship. 

"This data shows faith-related activity/spirituality among Gen Z and millennials to be higher than other generations," the researchers said.

"Although we have noted the high engagement in terms of prayer and worship, we also need to note that engagement with all faith-related activity is higher than among other age groups.

"As such, this seems to reflect a wider spirituality among Gen Z rather than signalling engagement with institutional faith." 

Dr Peter Phillips, Director of the Centre for Digital Theology at Durham University said: "While these figures may reflect the aspirations of the online panel if they don't reflect actual engagement, they show how engaged the British public are in online or hybrid forms of religion.

"Lots of people are keen to engage online and religious bodies should take seriously the move to online expressions of religion during the pandemic crisis." 

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Many Christians are praying more during coronavirus pandemic

Younger adults more likely to pray regularly amid Coronavirus lockdown