Imagination and Resilience: Your Keys to Success in Unusual Times
With such devastating pandemic news looming over our heads each day, how do we find ways to illuminate the shadow in the world’s mind? To regain, hold onto or spark a sliver of hope and resilience in these unusual times?
Like many other institutions, Columbia Theological Seminary needed to temporarily shut down the campus to the public, students and employees, resulting in rapid changes and innovations to its classes, courses and programs offered.
One such program was the Certificate in Spiritual Direction (CSD) cohort. In seven days’ time, Debra Weir, Associate Director of Spirituality and her team of CSD leaders converted their traditional, week-long campus residency into a virtual experience.
Debra Weir highlights her experience in the interview below.
Can you describe the process of pivoting the cohort so rapidly?
The turnaround was very quick. We had one week from being informed of the decision to close the Harrington Center and Refectory (cafeteria) to implementing the week-long residency in a virtual format. The effort involved lots of communication with the instructor and the practice group leaders and testing the technology they would use.
It was fairly easy to figure out which pieces we needed to do live via Zoom, such as some plenary sessions and morning prayers. Some workshops and lectures were recorded. It was pretty organic and some things unfolded during the week of the course. Not everything was in place when we started.
How did the instructors help with the transition?
The CSD is led by a team of folks and each did their part in a slightly different way. The primary leader, Jim Dant, (DMin Graduate 1991), recorded his sessions and sent them over. Liz Forney, small group facilitator led a workshop on yoga and open honest questions which she also recorded. Deedra Rich, (DMin Graduate 2015), small group facilitator, developed an online worship space which we enjoyed each morning.
I, Debra led two plenary sessions and recorded four InterPlay based workshops. It was incredible to witness the creativity and commitment of these folks and the way the week unfolded!
What did you learn from this experience?
I learned how to work with technology in some new ways. I also see what is possible in a short amount of time with focus and persistence. Because the situation was unfolding daily during this time, the increased stress was pretty high through this. But the stress put all of us back in the mode of learning together, leaders and participants.
I think this experience created a dynamic learning environment for everyone.
Aside from being able to physically meet and interact, do you feel anything was shortchanged? Was anything better?
We were able to provide the basics of this residency, but there were some things we simply couldn’t pull together in a short amount of time. For example, we had planned a panel discussion with some outside guests to focus on unique callings in the ministry of spiritual direction. Everyone was in transition, so even though I invited folks to join in, many simply didn’t respond. I just had to let that go. I think the movement integration we typically do was limited.
Doing these activities together in real-time enhances the discernment process participants are engaged with. I’m not sure about ‘better,’ but we surely learned about the gifts and challenges of utilizing technology for spiritual direction and are considering ways to include this experience as part of the program going forward.
What were you or participants most grateful for during this process?
In the end I think all of us were most grateful that we were able to do this together without changing the timing of the residency. The program shaped our days and provided meaningful activities that helped ground the unsettling COVID-19 changes.
Participants were also grateful that they could continue their work and studies to complete the certificate within the intended time frame of the program. Instructors were grateful to witness the growth and giftedness of these new spiritual directors.
What would you say to others trying to do something similar?
Go for it! Claim the opportunity to innovate and see where it leads! Sometimes you just have to do it without planning or over-thinking. Live into the new thing. Some of it will work in surprising ways, and some of it not so much. It’s all really OK.
These are unusual times and unusual times require resilience and imagination to help produce better outcomes. Embrace the use of technology. Allow your creative juices to flow and extend grace for the mistakes.
If you’re searching for ways to convert your learning opportunity into something virtual, take comfort in knowing that it can be done and that it may be better than you envisioned.
Chassidy Goggins works to enhance and support the needs of organizations and high performers through digital marketing and media communications. She does this because she believes collaboration and innovation, coupled with strategy, are key in propelling people with vision forward. She currently serves as the Media and Marketing Coordinator for the Center of Lifelong Learning and enjoys the space it gives her to combine her faith and professional background to further the Great Commission. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, traveling, writing, searching for bakeries and binge-watching her favorite movies/shows on streaming services she vows to stop paying for.