ReCoVirA Germany – Times of recovery?
| English | Germany
Gero Menzel, Research Associate, Goethe University Frankfurt
Recently, on the 8th of April, the last corona measures, ffp2-masks being compulsory in hospitals and pharmacies, were not prolonged and Germany has now at least politically entered a post-pandemic state. Most of social life as well as religious life had already reverted back to a somewhat “new old normal”.
Entering the field phase in mid-March, we, the German ReCoVirA team, experienced a field were effects of the pandemic were still present. Attendance is often lower than before the pandemic, People are still hesitant shaking hands for the rite of peace, hands are disinfected before the administration of the Eucharist and some other hygiene measures are still in place. Currently there is a lot of change. The popular livestream from the bishop’s chapel in Limburg, which was established in March 2020, was discontinued after Easter mass. Many types of events, services and gatherings adapted during the pandemic have been discontinued, are being discontinued or adjusted to new circumstances. Ramadan 2022 marked the first Ramadan in two years without corona restrictions, Ramadan 2023 already the second.
Society and with it religious communities seem to have moved on to a post-pandemic life. That doesn’t mean that the impact of the last 3 years has just disappeared, but in a state of recovery, on which the acronym ReCoVirA models itself, practices have shifted. As Stephan Lessenich points out in his book Nicht mehr normal, normality is something produced by every-day practices. The same can be said to processes of recovery or reverting back to normalcy. This means in these times of recovery we can observe which practices and mechanisms are invoked in a post-pandemic state, how they are negotiated and which priorities emerge.
Following up on some predecessor studies (CONTOC, midi, ReTeOG…), the question transforms to “How do religious communities (re-)shape themselves in light of all challenges, changes and creativity of the pandemic?”. This question link to another about how the role of religion in public life changed and changes. The Religionsmonitor 2023 suggests that following the corona crisis religion does not have the same social standing as before, when it comes to dealing with crisis. Politics and medicine have shown to be perceived as more important to citizens, when it comes to crisis management and orientation in times of crisis. Religious institutions remain an important resource for the religious as well as an important social institution in times of crisis, but their social perception seems to have changed. The restrictions of the pandemic have compelled religious communities to open up to digital formats and a digitized public sphere. But not all religious communities went online and not everyone became familiar with these surroundings. Will this affect especially traditional religious communities in the current times of multiple crises on a deeper level? How do religious communities engage with the digitized public sphere, especially the younger generations?
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Image credit: AI image generated using Leonardo.AI
"An illustration showcasing the use of digital tools, such as smartphones or tablets, by religious leaders or practitioners to connect with their communities virtually"