Being There’ in COVID-19 times: new spiritual support practices, their meaning and consequences to our cultural and existential values

Papadopoulos, Irena ORCID logoORCID:, Lazzarino, Runa ORCID logoORCID:, Wright, Steve, Ellis Logan, Poppy and Koulouglioti, Christina (2021) Being There’ in COVID-19 times: new spiritual support practices, their meaning and consequences to our cultural and existential values. In: Religion and the COVID-19 Pandemic: mediating presence in distance, 29-30 Apr 2021, Online via Zoom, organised by the Asia Research Institute, National University Singapore. . [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Spirituality is a broad concept, revolving around the notions of connection, meaning, transcendence and values. Spirituality can encompass religion, or not, yet both appear to increase human wellbeing and health. For this, Spiritual Support is key to holistic, compassionate care (Papadopoulos, 2018), and its benefits for patients have been demonstrated. This paper discusses the radical changes in the provision of spiritual support to hospitalized patients, and their relatives, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion stems from a scoping review of online sources (mass and social media, and websites of NHS and organizations concerned with spirituality) in relation to spiritual support to hospitalized patients in England during the initial pandemic peak, between March and May 2020. In the current outbreak, spiritual support has drastically diminished, due to the emergency burden of care of frontline healthcare workers, and the infection control precautions hampering the services of pastoral and spiritual care units in hospitals. However, spiritual support has also been transforming in quality, and, from religious collective rituals to non-religious spiritual practices, three fundamental changes have occurred: elimination of body language and contact during in-person spiritual support, including rituals; spiritual support and self-spiritual support, via symbolic and creative actions, often domestic, to establish closeness-in-distance; and the virtualization of spiritual support, using digital technologies, both in real time (e.g., live streamed masses and video calls) and deferred (e.g., recorded guided meditations and uploaded prayers). All these modifications are critically tackled in this paper, against the backdrop of the importance of spiritual support in end-of-life, pivoting around the inter-personal encounter between the sick and the spiritual support provider. Dying alone is usually constructed as a form of ‘bad death’ (Seale, 1998), to the point that cultures and societies have established collective rituals to ensure the smooth passage from the world of the living to that of the dead (Gennep, 2019). The use of digital technology may ultimately innovate our sense of ‘being there’, including with our avatar bodies, in spiritual support. However, a reflection is needed around the effectiveness of rituals, which traditionally entail the physical presence of a collective (Durkheim, 2008), and of the ‘new normal’ forms of spiritual support brought about by what is also an existential pandemic.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Paper work-shopped at the Asia Research Institute workshop "Religion and the COVID-19 Pandemic: mediating presence in distance".
This workshop was organised by the Asia Research Institute, NUS, and jointly sponsored with a grant from Yap Kim Hao Memorial Fund for Comparative Religious Studies at Yale-NUS College, Singapore.
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education > Mental Health, Social Work and Interprofessional Learning
Item ID: 32954
Notes on copyright: Copyright: The authors
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Depositing User: Runa Lazzarino
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2021 13:04
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 17:55

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