In the middle of FAU’s spring semester, COVID-19 brought the university and everything associated with it to a halt, including ministry.
On the quest of making a “new normal” out of this worldwide pandemic and society’s new reality, organizations are finding their way around the situation.
What used to take place Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in General Classroom North room 102, now resides on live video chats.
Florida Atlantic’s Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), a campus ministry, had to readjust their meeting locations to a different site, as they have been using the internet to conduct virtual meetings through Zoom.
In March of this year, students expected to return to campus per-usual. However, with the increase of coronavirus cases, FAU administration extended the students’ spring break for another week and eventually went remote with classes for another two weeks.
That additional week turned into the return of students to their homes to finish out the remainder of the semester remotely.
“After that second week, we shifted and just continued all of our main meetings on Wednesday nights and all of our bible studies using zoom in a virtual format,” RUF campus Pastor Jeff Lee said.
Lee, who graduated from FAU in 2004, has been serving RUF, as a pastor, since 2009.
Members of the group say COVID-19 has affected the way things normally pan out, but remembering to do their part, read the bible, and use the resources to stay connected to the community that RUF has provided could be instrumental to the takeaway of this group.
“I think when this all happened back in March, it was really hard for everyone and we all missed seeing each other and worshiping together, but then we started meeting Wednesday nights on Zoom and Jeff continued his teachings there to finish out the Spring semester,” General Business Studies major, Jasmine Espinosa said.
The first 15 minutes of the meeting, students mingle and congregate. From this, they begin worship, where some students will lead and, at times, share or give their testimony. Towards the end, Lee will give his sermon for about 25 minutes and members will disperse into smaller groups to discuss the word.
“For the most part I think we adjusted well to the technology, but I also have seen a few factors come into play. There can be a sense of who really wants to join another Zoom meeting,” Lee said. “As a Christian, I believe that God has created a body and soul that we’re best when we’re together, in a sense of community. There’s something about technology that it’s almost like because you’re not together physically, you’re distanced.”
While students are used to being together more often, everything has changed since the pandemic, leaving the members scattered all over the country as most students went back home. But the RUF ministry reminds them that they remain together in faith.
“I would say for the most part it’s challenging, but not crippling,” Espinosa said. “We have still been able to worship and learn together, just not in person.”
Whether it is a health pandemic or a civil rights pandemic, as a pastor, Lee has remained a leader during these times.
Students say that RUF National took measures in reassuring them of where the organization stands- making it certain that it is on the side of equality and acceptance of all.
“RUF National sent out an email and posted on Facebook that they are with us and that they apologize if they have ever done anything to harm or make anyone feel not welcomed or not loved,” Espinosa said.
Confirming the belief that people should stand with all walks of life, especially when one is in dire need of the world’s support, shows the foundation of what this group provides.
“FAU is an incredibly diverse campus and I’m just thankful we have a very diverse ministry with students from all different walks of life,” Lee said.
Lee expresses how he administers the group in helping them understand the troubles of the world in its current climate.
“I think, as a Pastor, I have a great responsibility to address both issues,” Lee said.
The organization wants to make sure they give students the opportunity to share their stories of racism and injustice, whether it be through a group setting or a one-on-one with the Pastor, speaking on the challenges of acceptance of individuals regardless if they identify.
Sayd Hussain, a student at FAU who is now running for the state legislature, began with the organization when another member introduced him. At first, he wasn’t a Christian but was attracted to what the fellowship catered. One year later, Hussain became a Christian on his own merit.
“My last name is Hussain, when you go to the airport, people always think,” Hussain said. “Running for office, myself, I’ve had to face a lot of discrimination from all sides of the table. Running in a district where it’s not like people look like me.”
Beyond what is going on in the world, RUF gives students and members the opportunity to feel accepted and welcomed.
“With RUF, what they show is that it doesn’t matter what you are or who you are, we all share faith and worship together,” Hussain said.
With all that’s happening in the country, Lee and RUF promotes unity and inclusivity.
“We try to foster genuine conversation and discuss the understanding of God’s view of the horror of racism,” Lee said. “Because we live on such a diverse campus, I think we can sometimes become numb to the realities that exist.”
Speculating the return to campus, RUF plans on gathering for meetings instead of remaining remote and will take the necessary health guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone.
“We want to follow the guidelines they have put in place– to foster community in the best way we can,” said Lee.
Ensuring the safety and faith of everyone involved with RUF, they still intend on orchestrating a faithful, welcoming environment for everyone.
“Our desire is to see the division of revelation and see people of every tribe, tongue, nation, and language gathered together worshiping God and if that’s what we believe God is doing, we want to see that reflection even now in our ministry here on earth,” said Pastor Lee.
Brianna Smith is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @Itsbriiaa.