“It’s Not Doctrine, This Is Just How It Is Happening!”: Religious Creativity in the Time of COVID-19

Lea Taragin-Zeller*, Edward Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Drawing on thirty in-depth interviews with faith leaders in the UK (including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism), we examine the diverse ways religious groups reorient religious life during COVID-19. Analysing the shift to virtual and home-based worship, we show the creative ways religious communities altered their customs, rituals, and practices to fit a new virtual reality amidst rigid social distancing guidelines. This study offers a distinctive comparative perspective into religious creativity amidst acute social change, allowing us to showcase notable differences, especially in terms of the possibility to fully perform worship online. We found that whilst all faith communities faced the same challenge of ministering and supporting their communities online, some were able to deliver services and perform worship online but others, for theological reasons, could not offer communal prayer. These differences existed within each religion rather than across religious boundaries, representing intra-faith divergence at the same time as cross-faith convergence. This analysis allows us to go beyond common socio-religious categories of religion, while showcasing the diverse forms of religious life amidst COVID-19. This study also offers a diverse case study of the relationship between religions as well as between religion, state, and society amidst COVID-19.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number747
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to many people for their contributions to this article. First, we want to thank all the research participants who generously shared their time and experiences in the midst of a global pandemic. We also want to express particular gratitude to Claire Curran, whose assistance was central to data collection. We also thank the anonymous reviewers, the special issue editor Solange Lefebvre and the Religions editorial team for their feedback and support. We also wish to thank our colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Woolf Institute and the University of Cambridge for their ongoing support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • COVID-19
  • Comparative religion
  • Home theology
  • Interfaith
  • Intra-faith
  • Social change


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