COVID Update: Summer Session

As the summer sessions begin and we look forward to welcoming the next class of seminarians on campus with the beginning of Summer Greek on Monday, June 15, the question has come up: how are we, as a Seminary, handling the re-introduction of normal even as we remain cautious?

CTSFW President Dr. Rast wrote a letter to the incoming students, which I’ll share in part. But first, here are some of the essentials of the guidelines for the summer:

We’ll begin to open campus in June for residential courses, with guidelines in place, such as using larger classrooms, requiring masks during classes, with most assignments distributed electronically. Our absentee policy will also be more flexible as we are asking all to be very cautious about attending class if they have any question about their health. Summer courses will be recorded so that they are still available electronically.

For now, chapel attendance is still closed and only available via livestreaming, but that will soon change. Beginning with Summer Session II on June 15, chapel will be open to students, faculty, instructors, and staff only; student families and visitors will need to wait longer for in-person attendance. Come June 15, you’ll see the additional protections in place on the livestream: physical distance and face coverings. Those leading worship, preaching, and teaching will not be required to wear masks (so that we can hear them), so we will rely on physical distance as a precaution. Weekly Holy Communion will resume in September.

For now the library will remain physically closed to visitors, with services continuing the way they have during Spring Quarter. Students can request books for pick up, scans of articles and book chapters not accessible online, and the Revs. Smith and Peters in the library are available by Google Hangout appointment for research assistance. The bookstore is slowly opening with regular hours resuming on June 15, though guidelines include masks, a limit of four customers, with time limited to 10 minutes.

The Clothing Co-op has had to take a break from accepting donations because of the overwhelming love and support we have received during this time. Director of the Co-op, Deaconess Katherine Rittner, let us know that she has been so inundated from the generosity that she and her staff need time to sort and organize. They intend to reopen on Monday, June 15, accepting donations on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

These are the guidelines for now; we’ll change as needed with the circumstances and restrictions on the state and federal levels. The plan is to update our guidelines for the latter half of the summer, prior to the start of Summer Session III in mid-July.

From Dr. Rast:

By resuming in-person classes in a few weeks, we are attempting something that very few other institutions of higher education in this country have yet considered. Because we highly value residential learning, we believe that it is time. But we must be cautious so that our return to normalcy is not disrupted…

Of course, our best laid plans may not prevent some in the seminary community from getting the virus. As the guidelines Dr. Gieschen sent you indicated, if you exhibit symptoms, stay home and keep us informed. We want you and the entire seminary community to be safe. Remembering the bigger picture, we all know that for the Christian this virus is ultimately nothing to be feared. But as the seminary attempts to navigate the difficult challenges ahead, including significant financial ones, we must be prudent in our actions so that we don’t unnecessarily open ourselves to a severe outbreak. Doing so would not make us good stewards of the seminary and of all that has been entrusted to us by our faithful supporters and our Lord. With nearly two-thirds of our faculty as well as a good number of staff over the age of 60—and some having serious underlying health issues—we must also consider how best to protect them so that they can continue serve as well…

Believe me when I say that the seminary administration had no idea what was about to hit us as we prepared to return from spring break less than three months ago. Events have moved so quickly that we, like just about everyone else, have struggled to keep up. Yet, by the grace of God, we will come through this with our mission intact, namely, to send you out into a world that needs to hear the good news of life in Christ. We accomplished that mission this past spring by keeping instruction going so that a new crop of pastors, vicars, and interns could be sent out. Now it’s your turn, as well as those who are just beginning the journey.

In his famous treatise, The Freedom of the Christian, Martin Luther posed two seemingly contradictory theses: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord, subject to none; a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all.” This is our opportunity to live out Luther’s insight as we carry on in the freedom of the Gospel all the while loving our neighbor.

With Dr. Rast, we thank you all for your understanding. Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll answer as we can in the comments. God’s richest blessings to you all. We daily look forward with joy to your comments and questions in the chapel livestream every weekday morning at 9:35 Eastern Time.