A liturgical praxis theory for a theology of reconciliation and justice

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Research on reconciliation in South Africa is not new. The question is whether further research on this topic is needed and whether it is not time to move on after 25 years of democracy in South Africa. This article argues that a critical survey of the reconciliation and transformation process in South Africa is needed: The image of South African society regarding racial tension and conflict created through the media is utterly distressing. The Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) also represents a complex pluralistic landscape with regard to unity, reconciliation and justice. It is also necessary to reflect on the future of South Africa and what is required to create a society where the values of unity, reconciliation and justice will prevail.

This article assumes the following three presuppositions: First, an awareness of the still traumatised context, characterised by racial tension and conflict, within which South Africans have to live. Secondly, the skill of self-reflection on the legacy of the past, that is, the ongoing effect of the apartheid era, as well as the concrete involvement of South Africans in the present and also the future of this country. Thirdly, the formative role of the worship service and liturgy, in which the liturgy of the worship service and the liturgy of life are explicitly linked. Based on the above-mentioned remarks about the formative nature of the liturgy, the central research question is formulated as follows: How can the liturgy as it is celebrated within the Dutch Reformed Church formatively promote reconciliation in the hearts of believers to impact on the current and future South African society?

The central research question was investigated utilising an interdisciplinary literature study. This article aims to develop a praxis theory based on qualitative empirical research to establish a liturgical theology on reconciliation and justice in the DRC in South Africa. With this aim in mind, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with fellow researchers who are specialists in this field of study. The value and contribution of this article are to be found in the empirical data as the outcomes of the research process. The lived realities and experiences emerging from the empirical research data were analysed within contextual and theological discourses on liturgy and reconciliation especially within a DRC context.

The article begins with a description of the current South African society and the DRC community as presented through the lens of the media. It then provides arguments that confirm the need for research on reconciliation and justice in terms of well-known and other lesser known incidents in the last few years. A description of the qualitative, empirical research process follows. Thereafter, a visual representation of the data that was generated through the empirical research process is presented. This comprises, firstly, an analysis of reconciliation in South Africa, secondly a list of obstacles to promoting reconciliation in South Africa, thirdly a theological interpretation of reconciliation according to fellow researchers, fourthly an analysis of being human in South Africa, fifthly a presentation of personal involvement in promoting reconciliation in South Africa, and finally an analysis of a liturgical theology.

In conclusion, the article investigates ten polarities of reconciliation in South Africa that confirm the complexities of the liturgy as celebrated in the DRC in the reconciliation process in South Africa. The quest for equilibrium between these polarities serves as a provisional praxis theory to establish a liturgical theology of reconciliation and justice in the DRC in South Africa.

Keywords: Dutch Reformed Church; liturgy; Practical Theology; reconciliation; ritual; South Africa


Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans

’n Liturgiese praxisteorie vir ’n teologie van versoening en geregtigheid


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