Original Research

Transversal modes of being a missional church in the digital context of COVID-19

Buhle Mpofu
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 4 | a6341 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6341 | © 2021 Buhle Mpofu | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 September 2020 | Published: 25 February 2021

About the author(s)

Buhle Mpofu, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The disruptions of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the year 2020 reshaped all aspects of life, including religious practices and rituals. As more religious activities shifted to digital space during the lockdown periods, there was a growing need to examine the link between religion and digital media. Using the model of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA), this article draws on the notion of transversal rationality and concepts of rationality, cognitive, evaluative and pragmatic to posit that COVID-19 has configured traditional missional and liturgical spaces in ways that locate the agency of the marginalised at the centre. The article highlights how COVID-19 configured Christian mission as it disrupted power dynamics through religious digital spaces, which emerged as a new way of reimaging a missional church. These new digital spaces mediate between interaction and ‘telepresence’, embodied in the representations of the sacred available through online religious systems in practices where users are no longer ordinary believers – but religious participants who have power and freedom to choose. Although this is not a new phenomenon, the article concludes that such spaces created by COVID-19 shifts in power dynamics present opportunities for ordinary members to reinvent new meanings on what it means to be present or absent, to name, narrate and reinterpret the divine and forge new meanings towards participating in the mission of God.

Contribution: Although this is not a new phenomenon, this article represents a systematic and practical reflection within a paradigm in which the intersection of philosophy, religious studies, social sciences, humanities and natural sciences generate an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary contested discourse.


transversal rationality; digital media; missional paradigm shifts; Uniting Presbyterian Church in South Africa; COVID-19


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Crossref Citations

1. Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on church ministries in Africa: A literature analysis focusing on South Africa
Vhumani Magezi
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 78  issue: 4  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v78i4.7219