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Alerts: Coronavirus

Statements

04/07/20

Dear Seminary Community,

We are continuing to monitor the unfolding public health situation, and I have some important updates that will affect campus life over the coming months.

Commencement

First, regretfully, we will not hold the commencement service in May. This was a very painful decision because this is a culminating moment for which our graduates have worked so hard, and it is one of our most sacred services of the academic year. Yet our first responsibility is the health of our community, family members and guests, and the wider public.

We will hold a postponed commencement celebration for the class of 2020 next year, May 10, 2021, in the Princeton University Chapel. We hope that as many graduates as possible will be able to return to campus to celebrate, and more details of the festivities will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, we will have other ways to celebrate the class of 2020, including a virtual senior banquet on April 27. The dean of student life and director of alumni relations will be in touch soon about this and other efforts to mark this momentous time of transition. Although we cannot gather in person, it does not change how proud we are of the graduates and how much we join with you in thanksgiving for God’s work in your life through your seminary experience. While it is coming to a different end than any of us imagined, that does not diminish your significant accomplishments we celebrate. Graduates will receive their diplomas by mail this May and will also receive refunds for the graduation fee.

Summer Events and Courses

Given the uncertainty of the public health crisis, we are also extending the cancellation of campus events through August 21. All conferences and events will be cancelled, postponed, or moved online. The Seminary will continue in our current state of partial campus closure, which affects employee schedules and remote work and closure of campus buildings, until at least May 1.

Summer language courses will also be held online. The Office of Digital Learning is working with faculty to design the online summer language program in a way that facilitates meaningful learning and community. These courses will follow a cohort model, and small groups will walk through the material together, including attending live web conferences, viewing recorded lectures, participating in virtual study groups, and joining cohort discussions. The registration deadline is June 1.

In many ways, this is a season of grief as all of us manage unexpected change and the loss of long-anticipated gatherings. It is a time of great uncertainty for so many, a season that acutely reminds us of the fragility of life. In this anxious time, we celebrate Holy Week and claim the central promise of our faith: that however painful the sting of death, darkness does not have the last word. In this holiest of weeks, may we turn our laments to God with prayers for the world that Christ died to save.

Faithfully,

M. Craig Barnes
President


04/03/20

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12

In a new article, President Barnes reflects on the spiritual practice of prayer.

From Humility to Humility | The Spirituality of Quarantine

I am still trying to figure out the spirituality of staying home. When a highly communicable virus is growing exponentially around us, the most loving way to treat our neighbor is through physical distance. And this doesn’t stop the work of the church. I am so grateful to our pastoral leaders on campus who have found a way to continue chapel services online, offer pastoral counseling over the phone, and mobilize a pastoral care team to check on students. Across the country, pastors are delivering sermons online and hosting digital worship services from their living rooms. All of that is faithful spirituality. But how do we best fulfill our mission to be Christ’s “witnesses to the ends of the earth” by cloistering ourselves at home?

I have found help with this question by remembering the contributions of St. Benedict and St. Gregory. This is not the first time in human history that we have faced widespread disease that leads us to prayer.

Read more


03/27/20

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. ~ Psalm 57:1

A Video Message from President Barnes: Under the Wings of God

“As we find refuge under the caring, loving wings of God we discover that this perfect love casts out all of our fear…For the sake of your own soul, for the sake of the community, for the sake of our society, which needs all of the love it can find right now, take care of your life with God. Find God’s care and compassion that you might be free to be compassionate yourself.”



03/20/20

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. ~ Psalm 46:1-3

A Video Message from President Barnes: Learning to Sing the Lord's Song

“We are still a community that is committed to caring for each other during these hard days…and in these days as we learn new ways of being together without actually being together, the love of the community is going to break through.”



03/18/20


Dear Seminary Community,

Every day brings escalating news of the spread of COVID-19 in our region, and these reports call us to respond rapidly and faithfully as responsible citizens and neighbors. We face increasingly significant restrictions on even local travel and basic public activities in the days ahead.

In order to promote the health of our students, employees, and the broader public, the Seminary will move to a state of partial campus closure beginning this Friday at 5:00 p.m. and lasting until at least April 6. For details, FAQ, and up-to-date information, continue to check the alerts site.

We remain focused on fulfilling our academic program online, while closing as much of the campus as possible so that the virus does not have an opportunity to spread here. This is yet another step to promote social distancing and to ensure that we have the least number of people on campus as possible, which in this public health crisis is good not only for our community but for the larger region.

This means:

  • Our academic program will continue online, as planned, and we will fully support faculty and students with the assistance and digital infrastructure needed to complete the semester successfully.
  • All employees who can fulfill their job responsibilities remotely will continue their work with a normal business schedule.
  • Personnel who fulfill critical functions to campus operations will continue to report to campus.
  • Otherwise, all of our employees who cannot fulfill their job responsibilities remotely will be asked to stay home and will continue to receive full pay and benefits. These employees should confer with their supervisor about whether and when they need to report to campus.
  • While students have been strongly encouraged to leave campus to complete their semester online, we realize that many are not able to do so. We will be continuing modified services for those who remain on campus. Any student who needs financial assistance to return home should contact the Dean of Student Life.
  • All students who live in the Alexander Hall or Hodge Hall dorms and have extenuating circumstances that do not allow them to leave campus will relocate on a temporary basis to apartments at CRW. This allows us to provide more social distancing, and to protect students in the dorms from potential exposure in shared bathroom and living facilities. Dining services will continue by daily delivery of meals to CRW for those students who are on the board plan.

The following buildings will be closed:

  • The library will close on Friday at 4:30 p.m. All digital resources will continue to be accessible and reference assistance will be available online.
  • Mackay Dining Room will be closed after lunch service on Friday, and dining services will continue to provide food to those on the meal plan through delivered services.
  • The Erdman Center will remain closed for guest lodging.
  • The gym and fitness facilities will remain closed.
  • Alexander Hall and Hodge Hall dormitories will close at 5:00 p.m. on Friday.
  • Faculty who wish to access their offices may do so with card access, but should notify security when they are in the building.
  • Tiger Transit service will end on Friday at 8:00 p.m.

We are closely following the discussion among government leaders and will be prepared to move to this status earlier than Friday if necessary.

These changes are disruptive for all of us. But they are critical not only for the health and well-being of our community, but also for our neighbors across the region. As the virus escalates, we have no choice but to take the most proactive measures possible to slow its spread.

Amidst all of these changes, here is what does not change: we remain committed to one another and joined in one community, even as we face unprecedented challenges. This is because the center of our common life is Jesus Christ, and Christ will hold us fast.

Please be generous with one another and gracious with yourselves. We will find new rhythms in this season and new opportunities to extend expressions of care. You will be hearing more from Jan Ammon and the chapel team in the weeks ahead about ways that you can participate in acts of care and worship opportunities throughout the semester. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please reach out. We all need to support each other in this season.

In all seasons, it is the God of grace and love that will keep us.

I will stay in touch,

M. Craig Barnes
President


03/17/20

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
President


03/12/20


Dear Seminary Community,

Dedicated people across all areas of our school are working quickly to help us transition into our new and unprecedented way of life. I’m grateful for the many people who are devoting long hours to support the needs of our community in light of the changes on campus and in the world. This week faculty are investing time in refashioning syllabi and digital training. Administrators and staff are establishing new policies and practices to continue operations and provide for the health and safety of our community.

The Seminary remains open and will continue to operate on a normal schedule as we implement social distancing practices in the classroom, by moving all classes online, and in the workplace. The Seminary continues to operate with regular business hours. If the Seminary needs to close or modify business hours, we will update the community.

The best way to stay informed is to visit the Seminary’s alerts page. Today new information was added:

For students:

For employees:

  • Expanded FAQ section with information about workplace guidelines and health
  • A technology page that summarizes all of the digital tools available

We are issuing new guidance about social distancing in the workplace. Each Seminary office will develop and implement a social distancing plan that is appropriate to their work and schedule. This may include:

  • Encouraging employees to work from home whenever possible
  • Allowing for flexible work hours
  • Limiting in-person meetings and using digital technology to communicate whenever possible
  • Avoiding large meetings or meetings in rooms that cannot hold at least three times the number of persons

Managers will develop social distancing policies for their offices and will receive more information about this process tomorrow.

As you continue to digest this new information, please consider these insightful and encouraging words from Executive Vice President Dr. Shane Berg that gives us a theological context about the Seminary’s decision to practice “social distancing” as the primary method to mitigate the risks of exposure to COVID-19.

Grace and peace,

M. Craig Barnes
President


03/10/20


Dear Seminary Community,

In the midst of the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19, what remains certain is the Seminary’s commitment to your wellbeing and the wellbeing of our broader community. I am grateful to the team of dedicated colleagues that have been working diligently on our behalf to plan and respond to this rapidly-evolving public health issue.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on campus. At this stage, the best thing that we can do to prevent the spread of the virus is to take proactive measures to limit the occasions for potential exposure by reducing the number and size of gatherings within our community. These measures of “social distancing” are important not only for our own campus, but to do everything we can to slow the spread of infection in order to serve the public good as citizens of a global community.

For this reason, we are taking several measures:

  • We will move to digital instruction for all classes for the rest of the spring semester.
  • We will extend the Seminary’s reading period for one more week, through March 22, in order to prepare for this shift. Virtual classes will begin on Monday, March 23. Faculty and students will receive additional details from Dean Lapsley later today.
  • Effective immediately, we are cancelling all public events, lectures, and chapel worship services through May 1.
  • The Seminary Library will remain open for the Seminary community, though will be closed to the public.
  • Student housing and dining services will remain open for those who choose to stay on campus. Students who choose to leave campus through the end of the semester will be reimbursed for unused portions of room and board. The Dean of Students will be in touch with additional details and further updates about campus life in the coming days.
  • Regular Seminary operations will proceed, but there may be some reduction in services. There will be further guidance issued later this week about how these new guidelines will impact employees and operations.
  • Guest lodging at the Erdman Center will be closed, effective March 16, until further notice.
  • All Seminary-sponsored travel will be suspended through the end of March, at which time we will assess these guidelines moving forward.

This represents a considerable disruption for our residential community. Yet we are called to adapt in order to care for our neighbors and practice stewardship of public health, mindful that our decisions have consequences far beyond our campus.

You will be receiving additional information in the days ahead, and you can always refer to the alerts page. We have an exceptional team of people, representing every department in the Seminary, that is convening daily and working diligently to ensure that our essential operations will continue and that the educational experience will remain of high quality. The chapel office and student counseling office also stand ready to support your spiritual health.

We can have confidence in these plans, yet our faith rests in the peace that comes only from Jesus Christ. In these Lenten days, we remember that we do not need to dwell in the fear that fills our anxious world, but can abide in the promise that God’s perfect love is enough for us and for the world that God so loves.

Grace and peace,

M. Craig Barnes
President



03/04/20


As the country closely watches the developments of the coronavirus (COVID-19) we recognize that you may have heightened concerns and growing questions. Please refer to this set of Frequently Asked Questions and check this site often for up-to-date information.

Please know that there are no known cases of COVID-19 on campus.

Your physical and spiritual well-being is our greatest priority, and we are collectively taking proactive measures to prevent the spread of viruses, including disinfecting “high-touch” surfaces, such as door knobs, handles, and tabletops, and positioning additional hand sanitizer dispensers at high-traffic areas on campus.

In addition, we have canceled two large conferences that were scheduled on campus for next week, out of an abundance of caution for the well-being of our campus community and our guests.

If you will be traveling over Reading Week, please reference the travel guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Following these guidelines, we recommend avoiding travel to China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea. If you will be traveling to any of these locations, which the CDC has designated as Level 3, please inform us. Students should inform the Dean of Student Life, and employees should inform their supervisors.

There is much uncertainty in the world surrounding this emerging illness, and we are committed to taking wise precautions while not succumbing to unfounded fear. We encourage you to do the same, as it will take all of us to minimize the risks to our community. Following the guidelines for good hygiene and prevention is the most important thing you can do.

We will remain diligent in monitoring the situation in collaboration with the Mercer County Department of Health and the CDC, and will keep you informed as we learn more. In the meantime, please join me in praying for healthcare workers who are fighting this virus, and members of our community who have relatives and friends who are impacted by COVID-19.

Grace and peace,

M. Craig Barnes
President

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church, Crystal City, Missouri

Joshua Noah, Class of 2015

“Through my field education placement at Trinity Presbyterian Church in East Brunswick, New Jersey, I discovered my gift to minister to all age groups.”