Special Issue "Worship in a time of Pandemic: Fresh Possibilities and Troubling Inequalities"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2021) | Viewed by 9770

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Edward Foley
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL 60615, USA
Interests: liturgy; practical theology; preaching; social justice; young scholars
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As the world is now painfully acknowledging, the global pandemic of 2020 has triggered drastic changes across a wide swath of arenas: from education to business, from health care to politics. No less affected is the practice of worship in the midst of this health crisis and the parallel theologizing about evolving liturgical practices across world religions and in local faith communities. Not surprisingly, the rapidly evolving array of in-person as well as digital responses to COVID-19 have opened access to many worship events while simultaneously exacerbating existing inequities in worship. This Special Issue of Religion will examine the upheaval in worship practices sparked by this pandemic as well as the theologizing about these evolving practices.

This is new territory for the area of liturgics and for practical-liturgical theologians who reflect upon worship practices. For example, while multiple health care professionals are pondering the impact of this global health crisis on their medical practices, most pastoral ministers are scrambling to respond to governmental and ecclesial guidelines and restrictions with little time to ponder the short term—much less long term—effects of this required improvisation.

Based on the presupposition that worship itself is to be a just act, authors will give special attention to the ethical implications of such emerging liturgical practices in pondering how liturgy and the allied field of liturgical studies might contribute to distributive, racial, gender, and other forms of justice. Worship is such a presumed service of faith communities that seldom do they reflect upon the justice implications of the ways in which such worship is enacted. This is parallel, for example, to the lack of reflection by education systems on the justice implications of their pedagogical and social delivery systems. The radical and abrupt move to on-line education during the 2020 pandemic has exposed the possibilities and also the systemic inequities in existing educational systems. Analogously, a basic concern of this Special Issue of Religion is not only how worship communities are coping and improvising worship responses, or even how a few are theologizing about them, but, equally importantly, how the underlying ethical dimensions of worship and its performance, accessibility, and assessment in all of its ethical dimensions are being addressed. As yet, there is no sustained or widespread reflection on this topic, and this is a pioneering enterprise and breakthrough in theologizing on the topic.

Prof. Dr. Edward Foley
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

 

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Keywords

  • pandemic
  • worship
  • COVID-19
  • ethics
  • accessibility

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Article
Venezuelan Evangelical Digital Diaspora, Pandemics, and the Connective Power of Contemporary Worship Music
Religions 2022, 13(3), 212; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13030212 - 02 Mar 2022
Viewed by 400
Abstract
During 2020–2021, the COVID-19 pandemics exacerbated the use of digital communication tools for the general population as well as for migrant and diasporic communities. Due to social distancing requirements, church activities had to be suspended or restricted, therefore, local congregations and denominations had [...] Read more.
During 2020–2021, the COVID-19 pandemics exacerbated the use of digital communication tools for the general population as well as for migrant and diasporic communities. Due to social distancing requirements, church activities had to be suspended or restricted, therefore, local congregations and denominations had to incorporate social media as part of their regular worship channels in an unprecedented way. At the same time, these new spaces opened an opportunity for diasporas to reconnect with their churches back home, and to participate in digital worship projects. In this paper, we study the case of the digital worship collective Adorando en Casa (AeC), which was started at the onset of the pandemics, producing several crowdsourced original musical compositions, uploaded in popular social media sites, and distributed via messaging apps. We focus on the reasons for participation of Venezuelan musicians and singers from different regions in the country, and from the large diaspora of Venezuelan Evangelicals. Additionally, we analyze the characteristics, structure, and theology of some of the songs recorded, to show how the concept of a digital diasporic spiritual consciousness is powerfully expressed through worship music. Full article
Article
“It’s Your Breath in Our Lungs”: Sean Feucht’s Praise and Worship Music Protests and the Theological Problem of Pandemic Response in the U.S.
Religions 2022, 13(1), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010047 - 04 Jan 2022
Viewed by 1888
Abstract
In response to U.S. government restrictions imposed as part of a nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, charismatic worship leader Sean Feucht began a series of worship concerts. Feucht positioned these protests as expressions of Christian religious freedom in opposition to mandated church [...] Read more.
In response to U.S. government restrictions imposed as part of a nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, charismatic worship leader Sean Feucht began a series of worship concerts. Feucht positioned these protests as expressions of Christian religious freedom in opposition to mandated church closings and a perceived double-standard regarding the large gatherings of protesters over police violence against Black and Brown persons. Government restrictions challenged the sine qua non liturgical act of encounter with God for evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics: congregational singing in Praise and Worship. However, as Feucht’s itinerant worship concerts traversed urban spaces across the U.S. to protest these restrictions, the events gained a double valence. Feucht and event attendees sought to channel God’s power through musical worship to overturn government mandates and, along the way, they invoked longstanding social and racial prejudices toward urban spaces. In this essay, I argue that Feucht’s events reveal complex theological motivations that weave together liturgical-theological, social, and political concerns. Deciphering this complex tapestry requires a review of both the history of evangelical engagement with urban spaces and the theological history of Praise and Worship. Together, these two sets of historical resources generate a useful frame for considering how Feucht, as a charismatic musical worship leader, attempts to wield spiritual power through musical praise to change political situations and the social conditions. Full article
Article
Liturgy in Lockdown: Restricted Movement, Expanded Worship
Religions 2022, 13(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010025 - 28 Dec 2021
Viewed by 560
Abstract
What has the pandemic taught us about worship? Reflecting on religion in quarantine, Heidi A. Campbell observed that while many churches have embraced a new medium of worship (digital), the underlying approach to worship has remained centered on the worship event. Campbell criticizes [...] Read more.
What has the pandemic taught us about worship? Reflecting on religion in quarantine, Heidi A. Campbell observed that while many churches have embraced a new medium of worship (digital), the underlying approach to worship has remained centered on the worship event. Campbell criticizes this event-based focus as being out of step with the networked age in which we live. Is Campbell right, or is there still a place for the worship event, even in this networked age? Drawing on the work of liturgical theologians and network theorists, I revisit the role of the liturgical event in the wider life of the church, arguing that the liturgical event remains a central element of the church’s mission, but that the liturgy is meant to take worshippers beyond itself. I suggest that pandemic reflections on liturgy should lead the church to emphasize that Christians are a sent people, even during a time of restricted movement. This shift in emphasis from gathering to sending out redefines the church more broadly and helps us reclaim a more expansive vision of worship beyond the mere event. Full article
Article
A “Liturgical Mysticism of Open Eyes”: Johann Baptist Metz, Caryll Houselander, and Pandemic Liturgy
Religions 2021, 12(9), 685; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090685 - 26 Aug 2021
Viewed by 823
Abstract
The German theologian Johann Baptist Metz (1928–2019) called for a spirituality that sees more suffering, not less, the more liberated it is; he has described this as a “mysticism of open eyes.” This theological vision involves all people, living and dead, becoming free [...] Read more.
The German theologian Johann Baptist Metz (1928–2019) called for a spirituality that sees more suffering, not less, the more liberated it is; he has described this as a “mysticism of open eyes.” This theological vision involves all people, living and dead, becoming free to stand as subjects before God. Caryll Houselander (1901–1954), an English author, developed a liturgically infused mysticism focused on seeing Christ in each person. Her vision of Christ in others was rooted in creatively portraying the particularities of human life in the great “rhythm” of the Christ-life lived in the Mystical Body and expressed in the liturgy. This article proposes that juxtaposing these two authors reveals a “liturgical mysticism of open eyes,” playing off Metz’s initial phrasing. The work of Metz and Houselander together presents a fruitful liturgical theology for Christian communities during and in response to the pandemic as they engage questions of suffering, justice, and responsibility. By rooting our decisions about liturgical and social lives in a “liturgical mysticism of open eyes,” the church may remain rooted to a liturgical spirituality, while also recognizing and being open to the suffering of individuals and communities while liturgies are altered, moved online, or postponed altogether. Full article
Article
Worship for People with Cognitive Challenges in the Pandemic Era: A Korean Presbyterian Perspective
Religions 2021, 12(8), 587; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080587 - 30 Jul 2021
Viewed by 1114
Abstract
During COVID-19, many people in the world experienced tremendous suffering. Because of its strong infection rate, people avoided gathering. In these circumstances, public worship, which is the heartbeat of the church, has declined. The decline in participation is especially true among one group [...] Read more.
During COVID-19, many people in the world experienced tremendous suffering. Because of its strong infection rate, people avoided gathering. In these circumstances, public worship, which is the heartbeat of the church, has declined. The decline in participation is especially true among one group of marginalized people: the people who are cognitively challenged. Traditionally, the Korean Church has not had much concern about the matter of public worship and the sacraments for those who are cognitively challenged, except for a few churches which have special departments for ministries to special populations. During the COVID-19 situation, these ministries have slowed, which means that those who benefited have had few opportunities to join worship services or participate in religious education. Going forward, there is a high possibility of another pandemic. Therefore, it is time to prepare for the future. Some churches have utilized online worship and Zoom meetings, showing that the cognitively challenged can effectively participate in online worship and religious education if family members can help them. Churches should invest in new platforms which harmonize onsite worship and online worship and expand resources to create new software for Christian education. Full article
Article
Time for Solidarity: Liturgical Time in Disaster Capitalism
Religions 2021, 12(5), 332; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050332 - 11 May 2021
Viewed by 901
Abstract
This article identifies the upheaval of many people’s experience of time during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a larger phenomenon of the 24/7 temporality that can be seen to contribute to the environmental destruction and social fragmentation typical of disaster capitalism. It [...] Read more.
This article identifies the upheaval of many people’s experience of time during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a larger phenomenon of the 24/7 temporality that can be seen to contribute to the environmental destruction and social fragmentation typical of disaster capitalism. It then proposes liturgical temporality as an alternative to 24/7 temporality, framing it as a fitting context for the cultivation of solidarity between human beings and between human beings and the natural world. It argues that modern Jewish and Christian theologies of Sabbath-keeping as a mode of liturgical and ethical praxis have articulated a liberative vision for shared liturgical temporality but have not paid sufficient attention to concrete, collective modes of liturgical time keeping that could contend with the all-encompassing reality of 24/7 life. It concludes by discussing three ways that a more robust spirituality and praxis of liturgical time could support the cultivation of solidarity: a sense of the present that is mindful of the past and future, the invitation of practitioners into a shared story, and meaningful repetition toward the appropriation of a vision of redemption and liberation for human and non-human life. Full article
Article
Spiritual Communion in a Digital Age: A Roman Catholic Dilemma and Tradition
Religions 2021, 12(4), 245; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12040245 - 30 Mar 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 956
Abstract
In the midst of this pandemic, most Christian Churches in the United States have been required to limit severely if not suspend face-to-face worship. The responses to this challenge when it comes to celebrating the Eucharist have been multiple. Frequent pastoral responses have [...] Read more.
In the midst of this pandemic, most Christian Churches in the United States have been required to limit severely if not suspend face-to-face worship. The responses to this challenge when it comes to celebrating the Eucharist have been multiple. Frequent pastoral responses have included the shipping of consecrated elements to folk for their use during live-stream worship and virtual communion, in which worshippers employ elements from their own households as communion elements during the digitized worship. These options are not permitted for Roman Catholics. Instead, it is most common for Roman Catholics to be invited into spiritual communion. This is often considered a diminished, even ternary form of communing, quickly dispensed when quarantines are lifted and herd immunity achieved. On the other hand, there is a rich and thoughtful tradition about spiritual communion that recognizes it as an essential element in communion even when such is experienced face-to-face. This article intends to affirm the values of spiritual communion as a real, mystical and fruitful action that not only sustains people worshipping from afar, but enhances an authentic eucharistic spirituality. Full article
Article
Liturgical Participation: An Effective Hermeneutic for Individuals with Profound Memory Loss
Religions 2021, 12(3), 217; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030217 - 21 Mar 2021
Viewed by 685
Abstract
In non-pandemic times adults with profound memory loss (PML) are isolated by virtue of the effects of their decline. The marginalization of this cohort has been greatly exacerbated by the present pandemic. Individuals and their caretakers are not seen as active members, but [...] Read more.
In non-pandemic times adults with profound memory loss (PML) are isolated by virtue of the effects of their decline. The marginalization of this cohort has been greatly exacerbated by the present pandemic. Individuals and their caretakers are not seen as active members, but as objects of pastoral care. Leaving individuals outside of the present moment, PML makes it difficult to communicate or function. They may behave in ways that would be antithetical to their thinking. Individuals were isolated from their homes and worshiping communities. In this paper I will present a liturgical hermeneutic of Liturgical Participation. I will illustrate its effectiveness as a catechetical methodology for individuals experiencing PML. The methodology of Liturgical Participation will aid ministers in the work of raising the consciousness of individuals as active participants in the work of God. Full article
Article
Essential Workers, Essential Services? Leitourgia in Light of Lockdown
Religions 2021, 12(2), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12020101 - 02 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 807
Abstract
Within days of the outbreak of COVID-19, the language of “essential work” and “essential workers” became commonplace in public discourse. “Church workers” and their in-person liturgical services were largely deemed “non-essential”, and most assemblies shifted worship to online platforms. While some reflection on [...] Read more.
Within days of the outbreak of COVID-19, the language of “essential work” and “essential workers” became commonplace in public discourse. “Church workers” and their in-person liturgical services were largely deemed “non-essential”, and most assemblies shifted worship to online platforms. While some reflection on this virtual “church work” has appeared in the intervening months, there has been less evaluation of the gathered assembly’s absence from the public square, along with the contribution its liturgical work might offer in interpreting the pandemic and its effects. This essay imagines a post-COVID-19 agenda for liturgical studies that focuses on a recovery of Christian liturgy as public, in-person, and “essential” service done for the sake of the polis—a public example of “church doing world”—that proposes a countersign to the inequalities of contemporary consumer culture laid bare in these last months. It begins by engaging in dialogue with the leitourgia of groups who insisted on the essential nature of their public service, in particular the public protests against police violence that marked the summer of 2020. In doing so, it seeks ways liturgical assemblies might better propose a “public theology” of God’s work in the world understood as the concursus Dei, the divine accompanying of creation and humanity within it. Full article
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