Original Research

A congregation-based pastoral care to the victims of shack fires in the African context

Alfred R. Brunsdon
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 41, No 1 | a2101 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v41i1.2101 | © 2020 Alfred R. Brunsdon | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 April 2020 | Published: 16 September 2020

About the author(s)

Alfred R. Brunsdon, Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Mahikeng, South Africa


The focus of this article is on a congregation-based pastoral care to the victims of shack fires in the African context. Deviating from traditional individualistic notions of pastoral care, it argues that congregations can contribute significantly to the spiritual healing of victims of this growing phenomenon characteristic of informal settlements. The article offers a phenomenological perspective on shack dwelling in the (South) African context. The structural and spatial vulnerability of shacks is investigated in order to arrive at the notion of the multi-dimensional vulnerability of shack dwellers as victims of shack fires. The occurrence of shack fires is discussed whereafter a congregation-based pastoral care is explicated. The notion of a congregation-based pastoral care is imagined in practical terms as an approach that revolves around sensitising congregation members to the unique and total loss incurred through shack fires, leading the congregation members to practise a ministry of presence, solidarity and sharing towards the victims of shack fires. This research contributes to the discourse on the contextualisation of Practical Theology and pastoral care in the African context.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: By engaging contemporary psychological, sociological and anthropological–phenomenological insights from a practical theological stance, the research challenges traditional individualistic views of pastoral care. The resultant congregation-based pastoral care has implications for pastoral theological theory formation, congregational studies and missiology.


shack fires; informal settlements; vulnerability; African context; congregation-based pastoral care


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