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Puerto Rico: 3,000 Churches Damaged, Fewer Christians Left to Rebuild

Attendance drops as 400,000 island residents move to the mainland.
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Puerto Rico: 3,000 Churches Damaged, Fewer Christians Left to Rebuild
Image: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Church in Rio Grande

The evangelical church in Puerto Rico won’t be the same after Hurricane Maria.

Even congregations that have resumed their regular gatherings after repairing buildings and regaining power are still missing a major part of church life: some of their members.

An estimated 400,000 of the island’s more than 3 million residents have left the US territory for the mainland since the record-setting September storm. Like every other aspect of Puerto Rican life, church attendance has taken a hit.

Gadiel Ríos’s 350-member congregation in Arecibo, La Iglesia del Centro, saw five to six families relocate to the mainland after enduring ongoing power outages and financial hardship—a number similar to losses experienced by fellow pastors.

About a third of Ríos’s congregants still don’t have power—the same proportion of electricity customers island-wide who are still waiting for service. He estimates Sunday attendance has dropped 5 to 10 percent.

“All ...

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