Church as Community

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Abstract

Churches, as religious organizations, are at the center of community. They serve “as community” beyond the sanctuary walls as social support structures fostering a sense of hope and belonging. The aim of this article is to explore how faith communities in Australia supported members during the pandemic. A mixed methods approach was employed to interpret the phenomena under study. Contact was made with fifty-two Christian faith communities in Melbourne. Qualtrics survey data and semi-structured interviews were collected between November 2021 and May 2022. Thematic analysis served as a tool to analyze the data (N = 106 survey responses and N = 22 interviews), from which three overarching themes emerged. The findings showcase ways in which participants felt they were supported by their faith communities during the pandemic and ways that God sustained them as members of a faith community. The themes “In the wilderness,” “Hope in the valley,” and “God’s silent presence” are discussed, showing how faith can be experienced and expressed in a variety of ways. Although people grew in faith, they also lost hope and questioned God. For many participants, this brought them into a relationship with God and with people beyond the walls of their church. While recommendations are offered, generalizations to other faith communities cannot be made.