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Rooted in a Durkheimian functionalist reading of religion, in this article, we present and discuss the results of a scoping study of on-line sources on the delivery of spiritual care during the COVID-19 pandemic in England. Spiritual care highlights the bond between healthcare and religion/spirituality, particularly within the growing paradigm of holistic and humane care. Spiritual care is also an area where the importance of the physical presence of receivers and providers is exceptionally important, as a classic anthropological understanding of the religious ritual would maintain. Three themes were found, which speak to changes brought about by the pandemic. These revolve around disembodiment, solitude, and technology in spiritual care, of religious and non-religious nature. A fourth theme encapsulates the ambivalence in the experience of spiritual care delivery, whereby distant and virtual care could only partially compensate for the impossibility of physical presence. On the one hand, we draw from anthropology of the ritual and phenomenology to make the case for the inalienability of intercorporeality in being there for the other. On the other hand, relying on digital religious studies and post-human theories, we argue for an opening up to new ways of conceptualising the body, being there, and being human.

Original publication




Journal article


Social theory & health : STH

Publication Date



1 - 20


Research Centre for Transcultural Studies in Health, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, London, NW4 4BT UK.