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“A balancing act of keeping the faith and maintaining wellbeing”: perspectives from Australian faith communities during the pandemic

Dawn Joseph (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)
Brendan Hyde (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 17 May 2023

78

Abstract

Purpose

The pandemic presented many new challenges is all spheres of life including faith communities. Around the globe, lockdowns took pace at various stages with varying restrictions that included the closure of places of worship which significantly affected the way people serve God and gather as a community. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the wellbeing and resilience of members of Christian faith communities in Melbourne (Australia) who had experienced one of the longest lockdowns in the world.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors draw on online survey N = 106 collected between November 2021 and May 2021. Participants were over the age of 18 from Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church, Baptist and Pentecostal/Evangelical faith communities. They employ thematic analysis to analyze, and code open-ended responses from four questions in relation to the research question: In what ways has your wellbeing been impacted during the pandemic?

Findings

Melbourne experienced one of the longest lockdown periods in the world between 2020 and 2021 when blended modes of worship forced people to congregate in new and different ways. The empirical insights of participants express their views in relation to celebrating faith and hope, connecting with community, pursuing leisure activities and pursuing leisure in relation to the PERMA model of wellbeing. The findings may resonate with other faith communities in Melbourne and around the globe. They may also lead to new and innovative ways of planning and envisioning modes of worship that may be helpful in a variety of faith contexts.

Research limitations/implications

The research was limited by its sample size (N = 106) and its geographical restriction of Christian faith communities in the Melbourne metropolitan area. This means that broad generalizations cannot be made. Nevertheless, the findings may resonate with other faith communities in Australian and in other parts of the world.

Practical implications

In highlighting the impact COVID-19 had in Australia and ways people balanced their sense of faith and wellbeing, this study raises concerns about the lack of funding that supports mental health initiatives in faith settings and the wider community. The study recommends that faith community leaders and members use informal communication channels to foster hope building wellbeing and resilience, and that pastoral care networks be established in the wider community to promote leisure activities that nurtures social connection, builds faith and resilience.

Social implications

Whilst the pandemic has provided new openings for members of faith communities to engage with God, the scriptures, each other and leisure, it remains “a balancing act of keeping the faith and maintaining wellbeing”. Such a balancing act may positively enliven a sense of wellbeing and resilience as people continue to navigate the uncertainty inherent in a milieu beginning to be named as “post-Covid”.

Originality/value

This is an original work carried out by the authors. It raises concerns about the lack of funding that supports mental health initiatives in faith settings and the wider community. While much research, news and social media discussed the pandemic's impact on communities, there is an urgent need for ongoing research that encourages, supports and connects people to faith and to leisure activities in order to promote a continued sense of wellbeing as communities begin to transition to a “post-Covid” world. This study contributes to the growing body of knowledge about the impact COVID-19 had in Australia and ways people balanced their sense of faith and wellbeing.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The paper was funded by the Australian Research Theology Foundation incorporated (ARTFinc). (No grant number). The authors thank the research assistant Elizabeth Culhane for contributing to the wider study that has informed this paper.

Citation

Joseph, D. and Hyde, B. (2023), "“A balancing act of keeping the faith and maintaining wellbeing”: perspectives from Australian faith communities during the pandemic", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-01-2023-0005

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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