Dear Seminary Community,
This has been a difficult season for our community and our world, and the daily news reports on the spread of COVID-19 indicate that we will face increasing disruptions to the Seminary in the weeks ahead.
Yesterday the governor of New Jersey announced strict social distancing measures across our region, including limiting large gatherings, closing restaurants and gyms, and moving all higher education instruction online. Given the escalation of this situation, we strongly encourage students to leave the Seminary campus, if possible. Dean White and the housing office sent out a very important communication yesterday, and we urge you to evaluate your plans carefully. Any student in need of financial assistance in returning home should contact Dean White.
While we know that it is not possible for all students to relocate, everyone should be prepared for very limited services and on-campus resources in the days ahead. The gym and fitness center have already been closed, and the library may need to close soon as well.
Secondly, so that we can steward everyone’s well-being, we are asking all members of the community to notify the Seminary immediately if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms; are being tested for COVID-19; or have been in close contact with those who are experiencing symptoms, are under self-isolation, or are being tested. You can do that by using this confidential form.
Jan Ammon, minister of the chapel, is leading a small team of administrators who will hold this information in confidence. Jan will review submitted information and consult, as appropriate, with select members of the Emergency Operations Team. Our goal is to offer pastoral care for the members of our community who are ill and to be vigilant about assessing potential exposures.
As always, our primary concern is for the health, well-being, and safety of our Seminary community. In these days, this has meant making difficult choices to move classes online and to encourage employees to work from home as much as possible. We experience these disruptions as an act of sacrifice, mindful that our actions to radically change our way of life may help to slow the spread of the virus and protect those who are most vulnerable.
Yet these changes may come with a sense of grief, as we lament the shattered expectations of what this semester was supposed to be and confront the isolation from friends and colleagues. But this is the shape of love for this season, which calls us to prioritize the health of our neighbor over our own comforts. We are asking you to practice social distancing not only for your own health, but for your neighbor’s grandmother and your classmate’s father and your friend who may have a compromised immune system.
What binds us together as a community are commitments to each other. One of the loving commitments we need to make in these days is to keep each other safe by avoiding gatherings in person, even when it is our natural impulse to come together.
As we adjust to this new way of life, I have been constantly astounded by the acts of creativity, compassion, and commitment that I have witnessed from faculty who are retooling their courses; from staff and administrators who are working tirelessly to retool our operations; and from our students who are rising to the challenges of caring for each other online. Thank you for your devotion to our community in all of these ways.
I will be in touch again soon. In the meantime, let us remember that Jesus Christ is always between us, even when we have to step away from each other for a time.
Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith…. Grace be with you all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:23).
Grace and peace,
M. Craig Barnes