Original Research - Special Collection: Festschrift for Prof Stephan Joubert

Dignity, justice and community as a baseline for re-interpreting being church in a Corona-defined world

Marinda van Niekerk
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 4 | a6482 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6482 | © 2021 Marinda van Niekerk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 January 2021 | Published: 25 June 2021

About the author(s)

Marinda van Niekerk, Centre for Faith and Community (CFC), Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria; PEN (Participate Empower Navigate), Pretoria, South Africa

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This article is written as a reflection on the relevance of being church in a world defined by the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The reflections are done by listening to the stories and experiences of vulnerable men and women who were displaced from their areas of living on the streets into (mostly) temporary shelters. Different organisations, state entities, universities and churches collaborated to serve vulnerable people with dignity. Wonderful and tragic stories played out during this time. Corruption and misuse of power played out alongside passionate and sacrificial work being done by professionals and volunteers alike. This mixed package of care helped the author to reflect on the embodiment of faith and on being church. The value of collaboration is unpacked, and parts of a visual journal are used to bring the stories of people closer. Lessons learned include a growing understanding of the context of homeless people, the contributions they made to the learning experience, and the re-interpretation of critical elements of being church and what can contribute to becoming church in a just and dignified way. The re-interpretation of prayer, discipleship, missional focus, stewardship and leadership, and liturgy is used in re-interpreting being church. The conclusion brings us to the understanding that true community, as expressed in sharing in communion, is critical in becoming a transformative church. Where people from different walks of life connect in an honest way, the transformation of individuals and communities happens and can still happen.

Contribution: This article links to the focus and scope of the HTS journal in the way it connects the practical environment of people who are homeless to the experience of and thinking about church. The article reflects on being church and how to interpret faith in a Corona-defined world. From a theological reflection point of view, the understanding of liturgy and faith are re-imagined in the context of the lives of vulnerable people living in shelters. Key insights of the article poses to help the reader understand how dignity, justice and community help us all to re-imagine how to be church. It challenges the institutional church to become more of the community that embraces and welcomes vulnerable people to experience God and church in their spaces.


exegesis; ecclesiology; Corona-defined world; shelters; homelessness


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Crossref Citations

1. Discipleship and Stewardship as Vital Aspects for Church Mission: A Case of Kwamrombo SDA Church in Arusha, Tanzania
Jeremiah Theophilo Izungo, Mussa S. Muneja
EAST AFRICAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SCIENCES  vol: 2  issue: Issue 3  first page: 211  year: 2021  
doi: 10.46606/eajess2021v02i03.0119