Worship 2.0: Testing the benefits and challenges of virtual worship participation for flourishing
TWCF Number
Project Duration
September 1 / 2024
- August 31 / 2027
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
North America
Amount Awarded

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Patty Van Cappellen
Institution Duke University

Edward Davis
Institution Wheaton College

A team led by Patty Van Cappellen at Duke University and co-directed by Ward B. Davis at Wheaton College will examine the flourishing-related benefits and challenges of virtual religious service participation among evangelical and Black Protestant Christians in the US. These groups of Christians have been seen to participate in virtual religious services in large numbers, but little is known yet about how to optimize the benefits they glean from their participation. 

The team hypothesizes that attending virtual worship will lead to some flourishing benefits compared to not attending, but less flourishing than in-person worship, because of reduced social and positive emotional benefits.

Through two qualitative studies, one large quasi-experimental study, and two field experiments, this project will explore three research questions: 

  • Does virtual worship participation bring the same benefits for personal and spiritual flourishing as in-person worship?
  • Are the mechanisms through which worship is thought to affect flourishing still activated by virtual worship?
  • What factors optimize flourishing-related benefits of virtual worship?

Multiple facets of flourishing will be measured, including physiological reactions (e.g., heart rate). The team will focus on positive emotional and social mechanisms  (e.g., collective effervescence) that mediate the impact of virtual and in-person worship on flourishing. They also plan to test a host of different factors related to how  virtual worship service is set up, and individual differences (i.e., context- and person-based moderators) in the experience.

Drawing from organized collaborations with practitioners, i.e., pastors and worship leaders from evangelical and Black Protestant Christian churches, the project team intends the lived experiences of congregations to inform the research. In turn, they hope the project’s outputs, which include research publications and a field-guide to the implications of virtual worship, will build the science of rituals by adding robust data on an under-studied aspect of ritual, and also offer congregations data-driven perspectives and practical resources.

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