COVID-19 and the paradigm shift in how Christians understand 'gathering'

Author: Edward Whiteway

Whiteway, Edward, 2022 COVID-19 and the paradigm shift in how Christians understand 'gathering' , Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


This thesis is firmly rooted in practical theology relating to the specific context of COVID-19 we find ourselves in today. It aims to examine what it means for the church to 'gather' in light of restrictions in place due to social distancing. Specifically, it aims to resolve any uncertainty or ambiguity around alternative forms of online church and their validity. Some churches continue to gather in person despite gathering restrictions and lockdowns under the notion that we are commanded to do so and are commanded to obey God over any human laws. Furthermore, some argue that there is perhaps a special supernatural blessing or extra presence of Jesus present when we are physically gather. This essay dismantles the argument in favour of gathering despite lockdown restrictions and argues for the validity of online church and alternative forms of gathering. It draws upon biblical exegesis and leans on far greater theologians that have come before.

It is my hope that the coalescence of ideas contained in this thesis can contribute to the discussions and decision making that church leadership around the world has been forced into due to COVID-19. I hope it is able to serve as a gentle rebuke to those who stubbornly open their doors in the midst of worsening cases, and as an encouragement to those who long to gather together again, and for now are exploring

innovative creative substitutions to what was once their normal church services. As we all face the paradigm shift of 'a new normal,' it is my hope that we are able to rise to the occasion, lovingly discerning what to do and having the strength to make decisions rooted in self sacrifice.

Keywords: Theology, Church, COVID-19, Church Practice, Gathering

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2022
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Tanya Wittwer