Neither the threat of rain or a global pandemic could keep the School of Theology from celebrating the Eucharist on Wednesday, Aug. 26. As the bell rang, seminarians converged on the rugby field adjacent to the School’s campus. What they found was completely different from the traditional service held in the Chapel of the Apostles—socially distanced folding chairs, tents for the preacher and sound system, and a card table served as the altar. Despite the radical change in venue, the Spirit was present.
Dean of the School of Theology, the Very Rev. James F. Turrell, preached the first sermon of the 2020–21 academic year. He welcomed the students, acknowledged the changes they would experience this year, and went on to talk about their “training in righteousness.” “Seminary is, in its way, not just about being grounded in the tradition, or even acquiring the practical skills for ministry, but about training for loving-kindness—about bending our imaginations and wills to encompass God’s will for us, and developing what has been called the “pastoral imagination” sufficient to do the work of living it out in our vocations.” He added, “We start by practicing the kind of righteousness, the kind of benevolence and loving-kindness, that following Jesus demands.” As for one example of this he said, “It will mean hard work, like looking at ways to make the School of Theology more reflective of the diversity of the people of God.” You may read the full transcript of the sermon here.
The Rev. Dr. William Brosend, professor of New Testament, celebrated along with Rachel Eskite, T’21, sacristan. Communion was in one kind, another change for the prevention of community spread. Ben Cowgill, T’21, the St. Luke’s Community president, had this to say when asked how the students were adjusting. “Yesterday’s Eucharist was poignant. Old friends and new friends, classmates and mentors were gathered together for the first time since March. There were tears behind glasses and under masks. There was also a lingering uncertainty; we do not know when we might gather again as a full body, nor do we know when we might be moved to all remote classes and worship again. Yet, there is hope and we will meet God’s call with ‘singleness and gladness of heart’!"
Worship isn’t the only event that has changed this year. This Eucharist was the last that is scheduled for the entire community to be in-person. Going forward, they will be held in All Saints’ Chapel with a limited capacity due to social-distancing needs. All worship services are also being live streamed for those who will not attend in person.
Classes are being offered remotely and in-person. Classrooms have a strict capacity for in-person classes, many are meeting outdoors in tents. Everyone is wearing masks and keeping at least six feet of space between them. But the mood in the halls or in the community hasn’t changed, much.
For now, worship is rhythmic, classes are engaging, and seminarians are finding ways to get together while still complying with the 3Ws—washing hands, wearing a mask, and watching their distance. It is the goal of the School, and the University, to keep the community safe and healthy. So far, so good!