Original Research

As we were or seeking what we ought to be? A practical theological rethinking of the communio sanctorum in the light of COVID-19

Alfred R. Brunsdon
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2331 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2331 | © 2021 Alfred R. Brunsdon | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 July 2021 | Published: 10 December 2021

About the author(s)

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


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Abstract

The focus of this article is on a 69 year old Dutch Reformed congregation in Lichtenburg (North West province), South Africa. It reflects on the congregation’s understanding of the communio sanctorum, the practice of which was halted due to COVID-19. Initial responses to the crisis suggested a deep longing for the communio sanctorum and a yearning among inactive church members to reconnect to the faith community. This created an expectation of a large-scale return to public worship once social distancing measures were relaxed. Also that the leadership would pursue opportunities to reconnect inactive church members to the faith community post-COVID. It however transpired that the congregation was merely trying to restore its pre-COVID-19 homeostasis. A brief historical probe of the communio sanctorum is compared with results of a small-scale empirical enquiry into congregants’ perceptions of the communio sanctorum from an insider-perspective. The article argues that the congregation may have missed an opportunity to re-imagine the communio sanctorum due to a reductionist view. It concludes by alluding to a need for a reframing of COVID-19 as a kairos moment with a view on a reorientation towards the meaning of the communio sanctorum.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: By engaging church’s historical and empirical insights from an insider perspective of a South African congregation within a practical theological framework, the research challenges reductionist views of the communio sanctorum held by faith communities. The resultant view, that the communio sanctorum has both inward and missional meaning, has implications for post-COVID congregational studies and congregational praxeology.


Keywords

Dutch Reformed Church; COVID-19; social restrictions; Apostolicum; communio sanctorum; congregational life

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