Church Life amid Two Pandemics: Similarities and Differences between Covid-19 and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on Congregational Life in the Dutch Reformed Church, South Africa
Keywords:Covid-19, 1918 influenza pandemic, Dutch Reformed Church, Kerkbode
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect congregational life in South Africa, and churches across the globe are still contemplating the impact of the (ongoing) pandemic, owing to experiences of pain, loss, and absence of direct interaction on the one side, and new possibilities linked to technology and innovative practices amid a global pandemic, on the other. Much has been written about similarities between this pandemic and other global pandemics, specifically on similarities and differences between the Covid-19 pandemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic. This comparison has also emerged in ecclesial studies and reflections. This article will reflect on similarities and differences between congregational life during the Covid-19 and the 1918 influenza pandemics in the context of South Africa. Specific mention will be made of necessitated congregational adjustments linked to practices and rituals during these pandemics in the context of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. In relation to both pandemics and periods, the official mouthpiece of the Dutch Reformed Church, Kerkbode, will be used as a primary source through which the similarities and differences between the mentioned pandemics will be discussed. Other church archival material and relevant church historical studies will be used to reflect on the 1918 period. Recent publications linked to this topic, as well as general congregational experience and reflections, will be used to explore the 2020 period. As such, this article makes use of various research methods, including archival research and textual and comparative analysis.
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