UP-led research on social capital in African independent churches published in new book

Posted on July 22, 2019

A new book, Bonding in Worship: A Ritual Lens on Social Capital in African Independent Churches in South Africa, co-authored by UP Professor Cas Wepener has been published by Peeters Press in Leuven, Belgium. 

Prof Wepener, Head of the Department of Practical Theology, was the leader of the research project and is an editor and co-author of this publication. Other staff members of the Faculty of Theology and Religion who contributed include Professor Sias Meyer and Professor Thias Kgatla.

In sub-Saharan Africa Christianity is experiencing unprecedented growth and many people worship on a regular basis. Simultaneously, many parts of sub-Saharan Africa experience challenges such as poverty and inequality. 

Given this reality and these challenges, a group of international scholars investigated the ritual practices of one of the fastest growing traditions, namely African Independent Churches, over a period of more than four years. 

The research team set out to explore the role of religious rituals in social capital formation and social development at community level in an African Independent Church in South Africa. This book is the final, comprehensive and synthesising product in which the international and interdisciplinary team of scholars from theology, religion and development present their findings. 


The book is structured into three parts that reflect its theoretical, empirical and evaluative dimensions. 

In part I, theoretical perspectives are offered on the main conceptual apparatus of the book and the authors’ own understanding of the nexus between the different concepts. In part II, the theoretical arguments of the book are further worked out by means of eight explorations comprising of qualitative field work research in the religious milieus of African Independent worshippers in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

In part III, a final set of chapters, by reflecting on the case studies in part II, offer wider appreciations and applications of the role religious ritual in social capital formation. This includes reflections on the African notion of ubuntu and the challenges that the ritual lens offers to policy makers in South African society, but also African society and the Global South more generally speaking when seeking answers to the problem of development. 


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