Churches see census as part of their mission

September 03, 2020

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…” — Luke 2:1

When first asked to help with this year’s U.S. census, the Rev. Eric Reece was initially hesitant to add to his already packed schedule ministering in a pandemic.

“But what came to mind was the Christmas story,” the United Methodist pastor said. “It’s because of a census that I know the story of salvation.”

He figured if a Roman census played such a significant role in Christ’s birth, then Christ’s followers have a role to play in ensuring an accurate census.

Now his congregation, Robbinsville United Methodist Church, is working with other nonprofit groups across western North Carolina to increase the usually low census response rate in their rural, mountainous region.

The North Carolina congregation is not alone. All across the United States, United Methodists are trying to make sure everyone in the U.S. can stand up and be counted in the once-a-decade census. They especially are focusing on historically undercounted populations, including people of color, immigrants, renters and rural residents.

Whenever these church volunteers deliver meals from their food pantries or check in on their neighbors, they are also likely to ask: “Have you filled out your census?”

The U.S. Constitution in its first article mandates that the country hold “an Enumeration” of its population every 10 years. Today, that means the U.S. Census Bureau seeks to count everyone living in the United States and its five territories. This is the 24th national census since 1790.