March 1, 2021
We’ve all been on a pandemic learning curve this past year. What seemed like a few short weeks of isolation has turned into a full year of learning how to stay connected in community in the midst of the bothersome (but necessary) mask-wearing and the ubiquitous calls to ‘social distance.’ I know many have said this from the start but why couldn’t we have dubbed what we are called upon to do for safety reasons ‘physical’ distancing instead of ‘social’ distancing? Maybe it wouldn’t have hit our psyches in such a debilitating way. At this point in our pandemic year, the very last thing we need is to be is socially distanced. Regardless of what we call it, however, our challenge continues to be this: finding meaningful ways to connect in deep relationship.
For me, FaceTime and phone calls to family and friends have helped. Group Zoom discussions on racial justice to a monthly book club gathering have buoyed my spirit. I’ve also opted to ‘pod’ with a few friends this past year. On the weekend, I head to their home, we watch Church together, share a meal, and often a movie – popcorn included! All of these gatherings have been a lifeline for me. They have provided me with many moments of joy, laughter, and fun. They have also afforded me the opportunity to share honestly with trusted friends about the toll the pandemic has had on my own mental health and the discouragements and losses I’ve endured. They often share as well.
Honestly though, trying to cultivate meaningful community presents a challenge to many of us no matter the circumstances – global pandemic or not. Seminaries have faced this struggle for a while now as residential populations have declined and more students have opted for distance learning. For NTS, bridging the gap between students we see face to face and those we only see briefly on campus once or twice a year is, well, a challenge. So this past year we created a new office that I have the privilege of overseeing that will focus specifically on creating vibrant relationships and enduring community among our students and beyond. It is a work in progress. And yes, there are many challenges ahead. But I am grateful to NTS for making this a priority – bridging the ‘social’ distance gap created by both a global pandemic and a rapidly changing educational landscape.
Yes, we’ve all been on a pandemic learning curve this past year and if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is how necessary our relationships are. May we nurture them with diligence and great care!
Rev. Dana Preusch
Director of Contextual Learning and Student Life