COVID-19 ADVISORIES AND RESOURCES FOR BODY AND SPIRIT
“…a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” -Eccl. 3:5b
This page is a compendium of advisories and resources for the physical and spiritual wellness of the Columbia family, the Church and the world, during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SEMINARY OPERATIONAL ALERTS
This section will continue to be updated with important information about coronavirus and its impact on the Columbia Theological Seminary community and its operations, as further decisions are announced.
April 19, 2021: Fall 2021 Semester
Dear Columbia Community,
I hope this message finds you well as days are warming and lengthening. The end of the semester is fast approaching, and I wish you all strength and success.
I am writing to you today with some important news. I am happy to announce that we plan to welcome students, faculty, and staff safely back to campus by the fall. There are yet many details to be determined and shared, but I wanted to give you this exciting news.
You will be hearing over the next weeks and months from a number of people on campus. You will hear from me, from the Vice Presidents, from the COVID-19 Task Force and Campus Safety Committee, from our Communications Department, and others. This communication will be coordinated so that clear and timely information is provided to you.
I can tell you a few things now, however. Out of an abundance of caution and as members of a community concerned for the health and safety of all, we plan to require proof of vaccination for all those who will return to campus. Again, there are many details that we will provide to you on this and many other matters, including what options are available to you if you are unable to be vaccinated for documented medical or other reasons. Multiple challenges emerge and we are proceeding with the firm commitments to the health of safety of all our students and all our faculty and staff; these commitments will guide our decisions, as well as professional public health recommendations from the CDC.
These commitments mean that things will not quite look like “normal” when we return. We will need to implement safety precautions that will continue to restrict our movements and activities in some ways. As we figure out these details, we will inform you and seek your feedback.
I know you are thinking of numerous follow-up questions! We have a whole list of questions as well that we are now tackling. Our goal is to create the most equitable, hospitable, and the safest plan possible. We are talking to peer institutions to inquire what they intend; we are consulting with experts; we are investigating things like ventilation systems and classroom capacity; we are dreaming about a celebrative (and safe) way to come back together again. All of these logistics are being developed into a coherent and workable plan. Once again, you will hear much more about all of this. Right now, I hope you will be encouraged by this happy news!
Leanne Van Dyk
President, Columbia Theological Seminary
May 06, 2021 Outdoor Gathering Policy Update:
Today the President’s Council, upon the recommendation of the Campus Safety Committee, approved a new policy for outdoor gatherings. This is great news! Please note that the President’s Council follows current CDC guidelines at all times in our campus policies.
We hope that this new policy will enable us to meet one another outside in ways that are indicated below. Enjoy!
Update to COVID-19 Policy: Outdoor Gatherings
Given the CDC’s recent issuing of guidelines for fully vaccinated persons and relaxation of guidelines for outdoor gatherings, Columbia Seminary is announcing the following update to our COVID-19 Policy:
I. Employees of all designations (OSW, EFW, RW) will now be permitted to plan and attend outdoor gatherings on campus, without special approval, provided that the following precautions are observed:
- Participants in outdoor gatherings on campus shall maintain social distance of at least 6 feet, and outdoor gatherings shall not exceed the number of individuals who can gather six feet apart in a given space (for instance, the athletic field can accommodate a larger gathering while the BLC courtyard can only accommodate a smaller group).
- Participants in outdoor gatherings on campus shall complete a contact tracing log for the event.
- For the time being, participants in outdoor gatherings shall continue to observe masking protocols, regardless of vaccination status. Columbia will continue this practice until such time as a clear protocol for registering vaccination status has been implemented.
- To ensure clear communication and prevent double-booking, employees should reserve outdoor spaces for Columbia-sponsored events using the facilities calendar managed by Business Office staff.
II. Students will now be permitted to plan and attend outdoor gatherings on campus in compliance with OSACL / ResLife instructions. OSACL / ResLife staff will communicate to students regarding outdoor gatherings separately.
See the complete COVID-19 policies in the tab below.
Columbia’s COVID-19 policy was developed based upon the recommendations of the seminary’s COVID-19 Task Force and approved by the President’s Council to clarify community expectations and outline standard practices designed to safeguard the wellbeing of the seminary community during the pandemic. The seminary continues to actively monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and be advised concerning best practices for educational institutions by local and national health experts. This policy will be updated as conditions evolve, and the most up-to-date information will be posted to this page regularly. Download the Columbia Seminary COVID-19 POLICY 5.6.21
Report and Disclosure
Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund Reporting
Columbia Theological Seminary
Final Report and Disclosure
August 31, 2020
Columbia Theological Seminary acknowledges it signed and returned to the U.S. of Education the Certification and Agreement on April 20,2020, and gives assurance that the Seminary has used, or intends to use, no less than 50 percent of the funds received under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act to provide Emergency Financial Aid Grants to students. All students who were eligible in round one was granted equal amounts of funds. In round two, continuing students were given the opportunity to apply for additional funds to supplement their needs which were derived from COVID-19 issues.
1. The total amount of funds allocated to Columbia Theological Seminary from the U.S. Department of Education for disbursement to students is: $34,349.00.
2. The total amount of Emergency Financial Aid Grants distributed to students under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act as of August 31, 2020 is $34,349.00.
3. The total number of students at Columbia Theological Seminary eligible to participate in (Round Two) programs under section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and thus eligible to receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants under Section 18004(a)(1) of the CARES Act is 42.
4. The total number of students who applied for funds and have received an Emergency Financial Aid Grant under Section 18004(a)(1) as of August 31, 2020 is 92.
5. The method(s) used by Columbia Theological Seminary to determine which students could receive Emergency Financial Aid Grants and how much they would receive:
• Our methodology was to provide emergency grants to all eligible students in Round One to ensure that funds are distributed as widely as possible. (Since all our students suffered some form of need due to either relocation or curtailed services)
• All current degree seeking graduate students for term of disbursement.
• Eligible for funding under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 who filed a FAFSA for the 2019-20 academic year.
• Maximum total award per student $300 (Round One).
• Maximum total award per student $379.94 (Round Two).
• In Round Two, 42 students were sent applications for additional funds and given a deadline to return the application.
6. The instructions, directions or guidance provided by Columbia Theological Seminary to students concerning the Emergency Financial Aid Grants were sent via Seminary email and published on the Seminary website.
October 2, 2020
Dear Columbia Students, Staff, and Faculty:
Greetings from the midst of interesting times, as we strain with hope towards a better tomorrow.
Today I am writing with news about the upcoming January and Spring 2021 terms. Over recent months, the President’s Council has reviewed information from what appears to be a largely unsuccessful national experiment in in-person education during a global pandemic. After consulting broadly with faculty, administrators and some staff members, we have concluded that we must extend our online teaching and learning to include all courses scheduled for the January and Spring 2021 terms.
The decision means that faculty will continue to design courses that are asynchronous with optional, supplemental synchronous sessions. We are committed to the principle that students who opt out of synchronous sessions will not be disadvantaged in mastering course materials. The decision also extends current Campbell Library services and practices, and continues the virtual community worship rhythms established this summer by the Office of Worship Life. The situation with master’s level supervised ministry courses (SM) and CPEs and advanced degree practica remains complicated.
We are encouraging students to continue to develop plans in compliance with advice from local health care officials and up-to-date CDC guidelines. We urge them to work closely with Associate Dean Jeffery Tribble for advanced degrees practica, and with Interim CEIP Director Dr. Sue Kim Park for master’s level SMs/CPEs when designing the programs and engaging prospective supervisors. Unfortunately, this means that we have to cancel January term Exploration trips. For students who want to complete I520 Explorations this January or who need to take the class to graduate on May 22, 2021 or December 31, 2021, we are working on devising a set of assignments that can be completed remotely for I520 credit. For those who need or want more details about this I520 alternative for January 2021 contact the CEIP office at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Similarly, our decision impacts events convened by the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL). CLL staff will continue to work with Associate Dean Israel Galindo in programming all events in accordance with guidance from local health care officials and up-to-date CDC guidelines as necessary.
For the fall we asked students to continue to craft their course schedules to avoid meeting time conflicts per the originally published schedule to preserve the possibility of moving from online to face-to-face formats. While we consider it unlikely that this kind of transition will take place, we would like you to continue this practice for purposes of planning optional supplemental synchronous sessions. Our better understanding of vaccination development and deployment processes suggest that we will likely continue with pandemic-sensitive social distancing conventions through June 2021, and that it will likely be later in the second half of the year before vaccinations will be widespread enough to make a difference in our daily habits. Thus, we expect a virtual Commencement on May 22, 2021. On the other hand, we believe there are reasons to be hopeful about a face-to-face summer 2021 term starting in July 2021.
While it is clear that our locality still lacks the broad availability of testing and contact tracing that will allow for effective on campus isolation and quarantining, we also recognize that we need to develop clearer guidelines for limited faculty and staff use of seminary facilities during this extended period. With that in mind the President has commissioned a COVID-19 Task Force in response to a request from the Staff Council. The Task Force is developing comprehensive policies governing any in-person interactions that may be necessary to execute our mission. Dean Maxwell has been appointed to lead this task force composed of staff members and faculty across campus departments.
Friends, we are all tired. Many of us are juggling course work in configurations that we never imagined before. Working dads and moms have unpredictable, possibly unreliable, or even missing childcare arrangements; some faculty, staff, and students who are at a higher risk for serious COVID complications have been confined to home for an interminable length of time; international students are doing online work in classes convened in vastly different time zones. Faculty are experiencing the high time investment involved in building and teaching high quality, engaging online learning experiences, and students are learning that these high-quality courses require different work rhythms, and we all have chagrin about how much longer it takes to write out a comment than it takes to say it out loud.
But by now I hope you are all also experiencing that this learning modality offers hidden joys. You may find out that the colleague who rarely speaks in class has wonderful insights to share about their understanding of love, justice, and mercy, insights that you might never have had to the opportunity to access outside of an online discussion forum. Maybe you are finding that writing sharpens your thinking as you wrestle towards forming an opinion about course materials. Have you noticed yet that you are learning as much from the rich diversity of your classmates as you are from the instructor? As a teacher maybe you are beginning to enjoy the ways that online classes open up activities that we normally can’t import into a physical space. I’m really jazzed at being able to bring film into my class in a way I’ve never done before. Are you finding gems like these in your own experience? Please share where you are finding joy in our new online habitat by posting to our Columbia Life FB page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ctsemlife.
In short, I pray that we will be overtaken by grace in the midst of these challenging days where sickness and death press us on all sides. We are being shaped by these events in ways that we have not yet fathomed but as written in Scripture I pray that God is stirring up in us courage and boldness and wisdom and kindness, great virtue equal to the great threats before us: pandemics of racism, disease, and climate change. The decisions we made last May to embark on fully online learning for the fall proved wise over time as we judged then, and many have found since, that it is almost impossible to prevent outbreaks in the close quarters of campus life with the resources that are currently at hand. Since then we’ve learned that as many as one in three COVID sufferers experience long lasting degradations of health, seemingly distributed at random among the healthy and frail alike. Though there is more heartbreak in all of our lives than collectively we experienced just a year ago, we are so glad that we have not lost a member of this community to this deadly virus. All of the sacrifices and inconveniences of this moment have contributed to this mercy. Let us persist in this commitment to bear our siblings’ burdens.
Love L. Sechrest, PhD
Dean of Faculty and
Vice President for Academic Affairs Associate Professor of New Testament
FREE DOWNLOAD FROM JOURNAL FOR PREACHERS
Walter Brueggemann, “Until the Dancing Begins Again.”
Brueggemann finds in Jeremiah insights into our ministry in the midst of the present pandemic. We are, he says, “to render the virus as penultimate, to see that even its lethal force is outflanked by the goodness of God.”
From Columbia Connections Blog:
Dr. Michael Lee Cook, Leadership in Ministry faculty, offers tips on managing stress from a Bowenian perspective
Supporting good mental health during the crisis by combating automatic negative thoughts (ANTs)
The Center of Lifelong Learning, on the quick pivot from a traditional to virtual experience for the Certificate in Spiritual Direction program in Imagination and resilience: Your Keys to Success in Unusual Times
Being Called to the Ordinary in These Extraordinary Times by Revs. Travis and Dr. Karen Webster, co-founders of Healthy Seminarians-Healthy Church Initiative
From the Greater Columbia Community:
God’s New Thing by Emeritus Professor Walter Breuggemann on the Church Anew Blog
Talking to Your Children About COVID-19 by CTS Prof. Kathy Dawson on the APCE Advocate Blog
Resourcing the In-Between: Teaching and Learning Pastoral Care During Pandemic by CTS Prof. Mindy McGarrah Sharp (from the Wabash Center Blog)
There’s nothing ordinary about this year’s Ordinary Time. In Leaning Out, Letting Go, CTS Prof. Kathy Dawson (on the APCE Advocate Blog) says this is the time for clergy to examine what they do and why
In this video series, Rev. Charles A. Wiley III talks with members of the Columbia community about how they are adapting to COVID-19.