(WXYZ) — Faith organizations are under pressure. The pandemic, politics, and social media have changed how people view faith. Fewer and fewer people consider themselves religious.
For decades, Gallup polls found more than 70 percent of Americans belonged to a church, synagogue, mosque or temple. Now that number is below half.
But some local faith leaders remain optimistic for the future.
The pandemic has been tough on faith communities, but some say it has also provided opportunities for them to reach people who they did not reach before.
"To be quite honest with you, because of social distancing, at this point we have not tried to bring people back," said Church of the Messiah Episcopal Church in Detroit Assistant Pastor Wallace Gilbert Jr.
"Before COVID, we had about 300 people, and now we let in about 10% of that amount," said Pastor Barry Randolph.
Before the pandemic started there were times when all the seats were filled in the Church of the Messiah Episcopal Church in Detroit. Pastor Barry Randolph says he and assistant Pastor Wallace Gilbert Jr. knew they had to do something.
"Life changes and we have to change with it," said Gilbert Jr.
They couldn’t just post services online. Many members do not have the resources to have computers or the internet.
So they raised money for computers and expanded offering internet service to more in the community. They offered food to more of the hungry. They offered COVID-19 testing.
And the two former businessmen provided entrepreneurship training to young members like 20-year-old Giovanni, who has started his own spice company.
"I am always here. Honestly I spend more time here than anywhere else," said Giovanni.
Church has become a place of unique opportunity and fellowship.
Raman Singh is the executive director of the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metro-Detroit and attends the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple in Plymouth.
She says there are concerns that many places of worship will not survive the pandemic. "Others have taken an immense financial hit and we don’t know if they will be back," she said.
She says she wants people to consider the possibility that interfaith cooperation and community services are what we need now to heal from divisions the pandemic widened.
"We need to see ourselves in other individuals and faith groups need to see themselves in each other," she said.
It really is all about perspective.
The leaders at the Church of the Messiah say that those who are succeeding in reaching people have something in common. They are all serving.
Even those who are succeeding are enduring hardships due to COVID-19.
"The best of us comes when we are down. What is going to happen when the pandemic is over is we are going to be standing stronger than we ever were before," said Pastor Randolph.