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How Livestreaming Can Help Us Better Understand Church

    The pandemic has forced thousands of churches to move Sunday services online. Could the shift to livestreaming permanently change how people go to church?

    Rev. Brian X. Needles delivers Easter Sunday Mass via livestream on April 12, 2020 at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in South Orange, New Jersey. (Elsa / Getty)

    Church went online in unprecedented numbers in the past few weeks, as thousands of priests, ministers, reverends, and preachers across the United States sought to carry on their Sunday services in some form. The Church Online Platform, which offers plug-and-play software for church livestreaming, reported on March 17 that more than 6,000 churches had newly signed up during the previous week, with some 4.7 million devices logging on during the first weekend of the U.S. quarantine—a 300 percent increase over the pre-pandemic average. The streaming volume was so high that the platform reported outages during subsequent weekends.

    So what will happen as the state-imposed sheltering in place loosens and churches begin to reopen their doors? Will more people decide to stay home, especially with lingering concerns about infection? Will the unprecedented move online have some permanent effect on how people go to church?

    We can find clues by looking back to 2007—the year Amazon introduced the Kindle ebook reader. Many commentators wondered whether print books would survive.

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