The Bishop’s E-pistle: Parochial Report for 2020

Over the last nine months, clergy have consistently asked me, “What are we supposed to be doing about recording attendance and services during the pandemic?”

We finally have an answer to that with the release of the 2020 Parochial Report form, which has been substantially revised to gather data on how Episcopal congregations are coping with, suffering from, and thriving during a tumultuous year marked not just by the pandemic, but by protests for racial justice and a highly politicized election.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the annual Parochial Report filed by every congregation provides data on attendance, membership, ministry, and finances for every Episcopal Church. You can search trends for your congregation, the Diocese, and the Episcopal Church as a whole. These are very helpful–they don’t tell the whole story, but they give indicators of health and vitality.

You can also view the whole 2020 report.

Some specifics:

  • Average Sunday Attendance will only be calculated from January 1-March 1.
  • Number of services will be broken down by “in person” and “online” worship.
  • There are many questions about how congregations have worshipped during the pandemic: livestream or pre-recorded? Zoom, Youtube, Facebook or a combination? Does the congregation plan to continue online offerings after the pandemic ends?
  • More questions look at education, children’s ministry, and outreach.
  • There is a new section on racial justice and racial reconciliation ministry.
  • The finance section includes questions about PPP loans and the effects of the pandemic on stewardship and giving.
  • There is a narrative section asking questions about opportunities, innovations, and challenges in ministry.

As a whole, the Parochial Report was already in the process of being substantially revised by a task force appointed by General Convention. I suspect the future parochial report will look more like this 2020 version than those from 2019 and years prior. And it will be good to see and learn from what congregations near and far have done this year.