An emerging form of the church? : community-based volunteers in HIV and AIDS work as a religious health asset.
In South Africa faith plays an important role in community-based volunteering related to HIV and AIDS work. Many community-based volunteers make use of their faith to provide healthcare and social services related to HIV and AIDS. This research examines this faith or religious vibrancy and critic two things: (1) to what extent such volunteers can be understood as a Religious Health Asset, and (2) what criteria can be used to consider community-based volunteers as a new form of the church emerging in a time of HIV and AIDS. The research first examines the concept of voluntary work in South Africa, particularly in times of HIV and AIDS. Field research relies on community based volunteers linked to Sinomlando, a research centre at the University of KwaZulu- Natal through participant observation and open ended interview method. I examine faith or religious aspects in volunteers serving the communities. The research notes that in community-based volunteering, the use of prayers, religious choruses and/or quoting of the Bible is a visible faith practice. I learnt that prayers and choruses are spontaneous, and they are volunteers’ expression and release of emotions caused by socio-economic stressors. The use of the Bible is not a common practice among groups of volunteers as it is with praying and singing. Given this, the thesis argues that faith practices in community-based volunteering can be understood as a religious health asset. Using the ecclesiogenesis theory of Leonardo Boff, the thesis then analyses whether these groups signify a new form of the church is emerging. However, the finding is that they do not constitute a new form of the church, but rather a new form of missionary spirituality as the laity is taking on the responsibility of living out their faith in a new context and in the face of new challenges.