“A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,” Janice Ammon, minister of Miller Chapel, quotes from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “A Time for Everything” as a fitting meditation on how COVID-19 has changed campus life and worship.
“That verse has taken on a whole new meaning in this season,” she says of the work the Chapel Office is doing to maintain spiritual life on campus during the pandemic. “One thing the Chapel Office does is remind people that this is still a spiritual season and you have to take care of your soul.”
The office is accomplishing this spiritual caretaking in many different ways. When the Seminary transitioned to online classes for the spring, the Chapel Office swiftly changed gears to produce and share online worship services. With the fall semester well underway, daily chapel service takes place Monday through Friday at 11:30 am, with participants watching livestreams from Miller Chapel on YouTube. Some services are conducted live via WebEx, including Wednesday prayer services, so that people can see the faces of those worshipping with them and move together during sung refrains.
“The daily midday worship is important to sustain us,” Ammon says. “It’s a time each day to pause, take a breath, and recall why we are here on this journey.”
Part of that journey involves daily practices such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home when ill. Ammon says these exemplify the liturgy in our daily lives as a way to live our faith and care for others.
“We have liturgical practices in worship that express our faith, but when we leave worship, we still express our faith through practices such as kindness, compassion, and speaking up for social justice,” she says. “Similarly, these precautions against COVID-19 are all acts of love in this season.”
The pandemic has also changed the way congregants sing together. The current process begins with Martin Tel, C.F. Seabrook Director of Music, who records different parts of a song and emails it to the singers, who then record their parts. Melissa Haupt, the chapel’s program and publications manager, uses a computer program to combine all the parts into a virtual choir. This ingenuity has produced moving arrangements for many chapel services, including a new offering this semester, Story and Song.
Story and Song presents an opportunity for students to meet Seminary staff members and learn more about them. Tel interviews individuals across the Seminary students may not normally interact with, and participants share their favorite hymns. After each interview, the Chapel Office shares a recording of the hymn sung by members of the choir. One installment of Story and Song featured Elizabeth Lorenzo-Ramos, an assistant in the Office of Multicultural Relations, and a performance of “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine!”
These practices nourish the spirit of the Seminary community and offer respite as the COVID-19 pandemic makes online worship necessary. While the community looks forward to in-person worship services again one day, Ammon says that, until then, “though we can’t open the church doors and hold each other in the same way, we are learning to do that in new ways.”
Carols of Many Nations, an offering from the Chapel Office, will be livestreamed on YouTube December 18. Click here to learn more.