COVID-19 & Campus Religious Practices
COVID-19 has caused many religious groups to get creative with their worship, but many Furman organizations have risen to the challenge.
Spiritual life on campus is still strong in spite of the pandemic, serving as a comforting community to many students.
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One of the most important aspects of religious celebration is gathering as a community. This year, social distancing guidelines have forced religious groups worldwide to get creative with how they worship, especially here at Furman, where in-person interaction is so woven into the campus life experience. The Paladin asked several religious organizations on campus about how they have adapted to COVID-19 regulations to keep the community safe while practicing their beliefs together.
The Jewish Student Association of Furman (JSA) reached out and supported the Jewish community here on campus. During normal years, JSA met monthly outside of the Library at their “Schmooze With The Jews'' bagel table. Unfortunately, due to safety concerns, JSA has not hosted that signature event this year. “We went from having dinners in the DH and the PDen to getting together over Zoom,” current JSA president Rachel Moss ‘21 divulged, “When I stepped into this role, I wanted to make a stronger Jewish community here on campus.” The faculty advisor for JSA has also contributed by creating goodie bags to help members celebrate recent Jewish holidays in an effort to bring the group closer together despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. Additionally, the organization has ties to local synagogues, which allows members to attend services remotely. “We’ve become a lot closer, which is a good thing. But we’re losing a lot of awareness for our club without having public events,” Moss stated.
Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) is one of the larger religious organizations here at Furman. Before COVID-19, CCM would meet and have non-Mass programs in the Garden Room in Daniel Chapel on Wednesdays. CCM president Anna Potash ‘22 recalled that the initial COVID-19 announcement last year was “shocking,” prompting the group to decide how the club would proceed despite the new challenges. “Initially, what we did was postpone,” Potash recalled, “Once we learned more about [COVID-19], we were able to move to a virtual setting.” Potash described a few activities that the group did virtually after COVID-19 hit. “[COVID-19] actually boosted our creativity because we had to engage our members virtually without it being like a lecture.” These events have varied from virtual rosary making to a Lenten “how-to” series for different aspects of the Catholic tradition. Mass has also continued in-person for up to thirty people, in addition to virtual streaming for those unable to attend. “Having everyone experience the same emotions puts everyone on the same level,” Potash shared, “We all lift each other up, we’re all going through this together. We have each other to lean on.”
Religious Rainbow is a LGBT+, intersectional religious group on campus. Blake Buehler ‘22, Religious Rainbow vice president, shared some of the organization’s response to COVID-19. “We had just switched over leadership a week before shutdown,” Buehler recalled, “But I think that we worked hard at trying to foster a sense of community remotely. We had a better plan for this fall and had a better grasp on the online environment.” Religious Rainbow has a few ideas for future community-building activities, like a picnic day or games near the lake. Beuhler shared that a positive aspect of COVID-19 has been personal check-ins with members “that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.” He also explained that the executive team of Religious Rainbow has learned a lot about what direction the club should go with regards to its members’ needs. “We’ve definitely struggled a little bit. But we’re doing some bigger-scale things and have exciting stuff in the works.”
Campus COVID-19 guidelines finally shifting into Yellow Phase is allowing religious groups to become more flexible and start to gather in their usual ways again. JSA is excited to hold an outdoor Passover seder for members later this month. CCM has begun holding in-person meetings in the Garden Room again. Religious Rainbow stated that because the group is so small, safe in-person meetings will likely resume soon. Spiritual life on campus is still strong in spite of COVID-19, which is certainly a comfort to many students.
Each organization featured in this article is planning a CLP for the months of March and April. Be on the lookout for these events on the CLP Calendar.