God, Church water and spirituality: Perspectives on health and healing in Soweto, South Africa

Glob Public Health. 2022 Jul;17(7):1172-1185. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2021.1919738. Epub 2021 Apr 27.


Faith, belief, and religion can powerfully shape how people live with and heal from illness. Engaging in religious practices, from gathering for services to reading the holy texts and engaging in private prayer, can serve as a critical way of coping or building resilience amidst everyday social, moral, and medical challenges. In this article, we investigate why, what, and how people living with chronic illness in an urban South African township prioritise healing practices of the Church over the Clinic. We conducted 88 in-depth qualitative interviews to understand how people think about health, chronic illness, and healing. Most people described complex socio-spiritual beliefs and practices that many prioritised or practiced apart from biomedical care. This included religious practices, such as prayer and drinking church water, as well as one's spirituality, which was an essential way in which people found healing. Recognising how socio-spiritual practice fosters healing and wellness is critical for thinking about health and healing for Soweto residents.

Keywords: Healing; South Africa; church water; god; spirituality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Religion
  • South Africa
  • Spirituality*
  • Water*


  • Water