“Church and Diakonia in the age of COVID-19” by Mothy Varkey is the eighth book of the series “Re-imagining Church as Event: Perspectives from the Margins”.
As we are facing an unprecedented global crisis triggered by COVID-19, it is our responsibility (‘diakonia’) as a faith community (‘ekklēsia’) to look at life through the critical lens of faith. Vulnerability is not just the condition of being potentially harmed by another, but also the interdependent character of our bodily and social lives. We are impressed upon each other by means of the environment, social worlds and intimate contact. These mutual and material modes of sharing define vulnerability, intertwinements and interdependence of our embodied social life. This calls for an intersectional approach in our faith response to the ‘viral genocide.’ “Church and Diakonia in the Age of COVID-19″ takes on board the ecological-economic-ethical issues such as climate change, capitalism, casteism, digital imperialism, domestic violence, poverty, migrant issues, grief and loss. It is in understanding faith through the lens of the pandemic that we reclaim/reimagine ‘ekklēsia’ and ‘diakonia’ in this age.
Ecclesia and the diakonia are integrally related. Christian mission becomes true diakonia only when the social and transformative work of the church is directed towards a wider mission paradigm in the transformation of the socio-economic structures. Here church becomes an event. As the church seeks to relate its mission to the world in diakonia, it should also be prepared to undergo a process of self-criticism where structures and identities irrelevant to the mission are repeatedly challenged with the central message of the crucified Jesus. In this process of mission, Mothy Varkey hopes that the church would constantly redefine its borders and margins as it strives to become a restorative and transforming presence in the world.
Director, Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, Bangalore
If I can summarise the message of this book, it is about exposing the untruths behind the “we are on the same boat” propaganda of the privileged, the powerful, and the propertied. And the author does this by using ekklesia and diakonia as hermeneutical lenses. Ekklesia has never been and will never be a building. It has always been gathered assemblies or called-out communities or congregations. Plural. The expression of this ekklesia is diakonia. Diakonia, for Mothy Varkey, is more than service. It is being immersed in people’s struggles for freedom, sanctity of life, peace based on justice, and integrity of creation. Ekklesia in its diakonia takes sides by creating subversive faith communities.
Revelation E. Velunta
Associate Professor of New Testament and Cultural Studies, Union Theological Seminary, Philippines