Presenting the Recovira project at the joint conference of religious studies and theology

Presenting the Recovira project at the joint conference of religious studies and theology

Linda Annunen

Analysis | English | Finland

Katriina Hulkkonen and Linda Annunen, Åbo Akademi University

The biannual Research Conference in Theology and Religion was held in Turku on May 22–24. The conference was organized this year for the third time under the theme "Traditions and transitions. Milestones and continuities". The conference brings together mainly Finnish researchers of religion who are interested in a wide variety of topics. We presented our Recovira research in the session "Seven keys in understanding lived religion", chaired by Björn Vikström, Professor of Theology and Tomas Ray, University Teacher at Åbo Akademi University.

During the lived religion session, Ilona Blumgrund and Iiris Nikanne used interview materials to discuss the conversion of asylum seekers to Christianity. Both of their presentations raised questions in the audience about authenticity and the relationship between researcher and interlocutors. In her paper, Martina Björkander discussed what it is like to study lived theology in the case of the Pentecostal community. In addition, she challenged the audience to discuss what theological research is like or could be. Tomas Ray analysed Lutheran identity in multicultural Malaysia from the perspective of Nancy Ammerman's characteristics of lived religion, and Anoo Niskanen examined identity motives in her own study on the Laestadian community. First, interest in themes related to belonging and everyday practices united all these presentations. Second, these papers highlighted certain kinds of creativity, such as the diversity of belonging or the creativity of theology and religious studies.

Our presentation "COVID-19 pandemic and ritual renewal in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland – digital solutions and improvisation" concluded this session. In our paper, we addressed creativity – in the case of institutional religion and ritual. We discussed the ritual renewal caused by the pandemic from the perspective of improvisation. Our analysis focused on Facebook nightly hymn singing sessions that one urban congregation launched during the pandemic. With the help of this example, we examined the development of digital ritual, and the reasons for its popularity, such as accessibility and homespun style. Finally, we discussed the aspects that limit the renewal of digital rituals. According to this evening broadcast case, the ritual renewal initiated by the pandemic was a process of improvisation that took place especially in relation to digital tools, religious traditions, different spaces, and resources, and gave rise to a ritual culture of mundanity and permissiveness.

The presentations of the session offered an interesting setting for the study of contemporary everyday religiosity. Afterwards, we reflected, for example, on how conference presentations could be built in a more conversational direction, and how the researcher's own childhood experiences could in some cases provide a starting point for analysis. In addition, the session raised questions about the benefits and shortcomings of the concept of lived religion and the need for longer-term follow-up studies on some research topics.

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