College ministry in COVID

Jeff Noble Blog

Welcome to college…ish.

Shirt, shoes, mask required. Classes largely online, even from your dorms. Townies told to report you if they see you with too many friends. 

Are you feeling the love, students? 

What a weird college experience you must be having. It’s undoubtedly one that looks so different from what you had last year, or what you were pumped to start having this year. 

Universities are hot.

The trends probably aren’t news to you. As of mid-September, most of the New York Times COVID-19 hotspots are college towns. Blacksburg included. 

An Associated Press article detailing the latest college virus numbers says, “The outbreaks are increasingly straining relations between universities and their towns.” 

If you feel like someone has looked at you sideways since you’ve returned to the NRV, it’s probably because they have. 

People are scared. 

Uncertainty breeds fear. Cue fight or flight. 

The BBC muses during an April segment that fear of the coronavirus pandemic is not only changing our psychology surrounding disease, but our psychology surrounding each other. 

“Besides making us harsher judges of the people within our social group, the threat of disease can also lead us to be more distrustful of strangers…we form worse first impressions of other people if we feel vulnerable to infection.” 

Biblical safety. 

We are all, students and townies, in a delicate dance right now without a lot of precedence. 

How do we balance scientifically rooted concern over a life-threatening disease with our sacred responsibility to love each other in community? 

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18). But also, “Love always protects…” (1 Cor. 13:7). 

Scripture tells us to care for the widow and the orphan (James 1:27) – in other words, the most vulnerable. COVID-19 is a very real threat against the vulnerable, and even the not-so-vulnerable. More than 200,000 Americans have died. It is not only perfectly reasonable, but it’s biblically imperative that we protect our families and communities. 

That’s why masks and giving others extra breathing room at church and beyond are encouraged. Everyday looks different for everyone. It’s part of love’s healthy protectiveness and humble submission to authority. 

But have we forgotten how to see the image of God in each other in this process? Are our first impressions so filled with infection risk assessment (albeit necessary assessment) that we fail to see the soul, the story in each other? 

We must not allow this. 

Welcome. For real. 

College students, you are an integral part of the Blacksburg and Radford communities. You are an integral part of Northstar, and of the body of Christ as a whole. You belong.

You should never feel anything less than that, pandemic or not. And if any of us have failed to uplift you as brother, sister and friend, please forgive us.

Yes, fellowship looks different right now. It may look different for a long time. We all have varying ideas and comfort levels, and that’s okay. We must protect each other. We must love each other. And we must give each other the grace to figure out how to do both. 

You are faced with so many challenges to navigate college life right now. Let us know how we can be there for you. The body of Christ should be your safe place. 

Northstar, whether we are at home or together, let’s rise to that challenge.