Belmont’s faith development organizations serve as a significant place of connection and community for many Belmont students. The current situation of social distancing has presented a challenge in connecting with one another, but the FDOs at Belmont have become innovative in their ministries, making changes and continuing to meet student needs in light of the circumstances.
Christy Ridings, associate university minister and director of spiritual formation, said the groups are overcoming obstacles during this unprecedented season. “I am so thankful for the innovative and adaptive ways in which our FDOs have continued to connect with students,” she explained. “They reflect the understanding that relationships are at the heart of all ministry. These relationships continue to grow despite the challenges of geographic distance.”
University Minister Heather Daugherty added, “During this time of challenge and uncertainty, students need trusted and familiar voices to help them make sense of what is happening around them and to find strength and peace in their faith. The fact that our organizations continue to thrive even in the midst of the pandemic is a testament to the way that they are ministering to students in a significant way.”
Groups such as RUF, Young Life, The Navigators and InterVarsity are meeting weekly via Zoom, Skype or Facetime in their small group and large group formats. Several organizations have put together live-streamed content through social media and interact with members through Facebook groups, texts and Facetime calls. Some groups, like UKirk Presbyterian Campus Ministry, are continuing their Bible studies and series online to continue offering a place for meaningful, hope-filled discussions.
UKirk used a series from Sanctified Art all school year called “Unraveled,” focusing on places in the Bible where things come unraveled. Rev. Lindsey A. Groves said the series is extra fitting now. “When we realized all of us would be separated, we decided to stick with that series because we like it and to give some sense of continuity. We made the worship services we’d planned into guided meditations that students could do on their own time,” she explained. “The series included some meditations on scripture with a piece of art, or Visio Divina. We’ll lean into those especially.”
On UKirk’s WeBlog, Campus Ministry Fellow Jenny Cook writes, “Visio Divina is a way for us to slow down and listen to a passage while meditating on an image that compliments the scripture. There isn’t a perfect way to do this – the main goal is to slow down, sit with scripture and allow the text and artwork to illuminate thoughts and feelings that arise. Sit with what you need to, breathe, and be.”
While the focus has remained on this series because the leaders know that students are being overwhelmed with online class videos and lectures, they have held some video chats and discussions, and have also referred students to the wellness videos that Belmont University Ministries has done in collaboration with other campus support systems.
One benefit the groups have found is that students who may never have joined one of their meetings on campus have joined them virtually, giving them the chance to make new connections. For example, UKirk at Belmont will partner with UKirk at Middle Tennessee State University this week for a “Zoom worship service,” as a part of Holy Week.
Many of the organizations will provide Holy Week liturgy and scripture reading, but meetings will likely be more discussion based. This way, group members can talk about how they are feeling and be heard during this time.
Groves said, “It’s hard to know yet what the longer lasting scars and silver linings of this time will be, but it’s been great for those of us in UKirk to stay connected and share the small things that are keeping us going, in addition to the heavy and scary things we’ve not processed yet.”