Social Distance, Digital Congregation: British Ritual Innovation under COVID-19

  • Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • Total publications:0 publications

Grant number: AH/V008730/1

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Key facts

  • Disease

  • Start & end year

  • Known Financial Commitments (USD)

  • Funder

    UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • Principle Investigator

  • Research Location

    United Kingdom, Europe
  • Lead Research Institution

    Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Research Category

    Secondary impacts of disease, response & control measures

  • Research Subcategory

    Social impacts

  • Special Interest Tags


  • Study Subject


  • Clinical Trial Details


  • Broad Policy Alignment


  • Age Group


  • Vulnerable Population


  • Occupations of Interest



Religious rituals do work, essential social work, according to both ritual theorists and the UK government, which has recognized clergy as key workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funerals, weddings, birth rituals, and holiday observances are vital to people's psychological wellbeing and sense of community, especially given the sense of unease created by the pandemic. But the key means by which clergy do this vital work-live communal ritual-is not possible during lockdown conditions. And so ritual specialists have been forced to improvise means of moving rituals online, something which is virtually unknown to most mainstream clergy. Because these improvised innovations are being done quickly by busy practicing clergy with little co-ordination between them, they are not being collected or studied in a systematic or detailed way. The full implications of these innovations are thus not being adequately considered or developed in ways that could be beneficial for the wellbeing of Britons of all faiths long after the pandemic is over. This project will fill that gap. It will work with religious professionals of a range of faiths from across Britain to capture, analyse, nurture and develop these fire-forged innovations and the possibilities they facilitate, using digitally-led methods drawn from digital religion, online religion and performance studies, including involving subjects in action research. These findings will be shared broadly and accessibly for the benefit of the field. They will also contribute academically to ongoing discussions of the changing practices of religion and ritual in the era of digital culture.