The wave of new coronavirus cases has passed its peak in almost all European countries. While concerns about the virus remain high, and while life is very different in many ways from what it was pre-pandemic, some European Methodist Churches are taking tentative steps towards reopening.
It is clear, however, that worship services will be different after reopening than they were before. For instance, UMC leaders in Austria and Hungary have given guidelines about social distancing, wearing masks, and cleaning surfaces.
In Germany and Switzerland, a few churches have reopened, while most others continue to be closed, relying on online and TV-broadcast worship instead. These alternatives are available at both the national and, in some cases, local level. Where they have resumed, services have been made shorter, and fewer people are admitted. Some reopened churches are holding multiple services to accommodate demand within these new restrictions. Congregational singing is not part of resumed services.
In this regard, the European experience reflects that in the United States, Africa, and the Philippines, all of which have also seen tentative or limited resumption of worship services, with significant changes from before. In all of these places, practices of social distancing and limiting of congregations indicate how the coronavirus pandemic has wrought a change in church life around the globe.