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Catholicity Challenging Ethnicity

An Ecclesiological Study of Congregations and Churches in Post-apartheid South Africa

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Erik Berggren

This book deals with the relationship between the catholicity of the Church and ethnicity. Churches confess their «catholicity» – which means that they declare that their members belong to one community; but at the same time, the churches are often internally divided along ethnic lines. South Africa was a divided society under apartheid, which also shaped the churches ethnically. The legacy of apartheid continues to cause division between people through inequality, injustice, skewed power relations, and marginalisation. The author presents an analytical tool that has been derived from key documents of the Faith and Order movement and the World Council of Churches concerning the catholicity of the Church. In addition, he tests the catholicity of the Church against an operative ecclesiology of South African congregations and churches twenty years after the dismantling of apartheid.
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Chapter Eight: Church Services Gathering Christian Communion or Ethnic Groups

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The previous chapter examined ethnicity in the congregations and churches studied. It was clear that there had been vertical and lateral mobility after democratisation, and that some areas had become more ethnically diverse. This chapter will explore how ethnicity becomes visible in the congregations’ and churches’ services.

Church services are the main ecclesial practices in congregations where Christians gather as a community. Services could be viewed either as a single main practice, or as a collection of several practices. According to Alasdair MacIntyre, a service could be described as a recurring event in a community that has developed through the long tradition of the Church. It is a practice that is learned through the generations, following certain patterns; and it can be recognised, irrespective of time and place, and even if worshiping communities are separated.1

The previous chapter was almost entirely based on interviews with church councils and church leaders about how they perceived ethnic diversity in their congregations and churches. This chapter will also use observations made during Sunday services. I will analyse the services as an ecclesial practice using observation, hymn books, worship materials, congregation profiles, missals, and descriptions that were given in the interviews.

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