One year ago, most of life as we knew it came to a crashing halt with the start of the pandemic…even campus ministry. Looking back at the start of the pandemic, along with the rest of life, we were forced to pivot the way we did ministry. In ways, the past year has felt like the longest year ever! In other ways, the past year has been filled with some of the richest connections and memories. We’ve learned some great lessons and are excited to reflect with you.
At the beginning of the shutdown, for a ministry that is so community-focused, we asked the question, “How do we form community during the midst of a pandemic?” Programs and events could be put on hold, but human connection and relationships are vital to building community.
Some of our activities were easy to shift to online, such as our weekly college Bible study. At the time, we were walking through the book of James using a video series. With the handy “Share my screen” feature on Zoom, it was a fairly easy switch.
Other activities were not as simple to make the switch to online. We walked with our community through the grief that was experienced at the loss of milestone events in their lives - graduations, weddings, birthdays, celebrations, proms, senior traditions. COVID impacted each and every person around us, and in one way we feel that as we were all walking through similar struggles, it brought people closer together.
Even though we were not able to meet regularly in person during the shutdown, we were still able to keep in touch through text messages and phone calls, as well as the occasional Zoom Group Hangout!
We felt led to find new ways to connect to our community, so we started a blog and began to branch out into virtual forms of encouragement through video and written devotionals. Many members of the Fairmount Family, near and far, banded around us to pitch in with this project. We covered a variety of themes such as peace, rest, hope, courage, waiting, patience & more!
Once the shutdown ended in May, we were thankful to open back up a bit for events outdoors. Over the summer, we hosted an outdoor “Chill & Chat” Discussion Group for college students & young adults, where we listened to and discussed podcasts through a Christian lens.
In the Fall, we were able to continue outdoor events and Bible studies. We quickly realized that we didn't have enough outdoor lighting as the evening daylight diminished sooner each week. We were so grateful when Pastor Aaron and our friends at Ascension Lutheran Church-Wichita donated a fire pit and string lights to provide the light that allowed us to meet outdoors safely and socially distance!
We were grateful for that time while it lasted. We had students who shared with us that coming to weekly Bible stud was one of the only times they could get out of their dorms and connect face-to-face. Loneliness was rampant in this time of isolation. Some evenings, we would hang out after Bible study and just chat around the fire. These were great times for building relationships and community. Then, once again, due to the spike in COVID, we were forced to take an extended break from November-January.
Thankfully, as vaccines are becoming more available and numbers have drastically improved in our area, we are able to gather more. We look forward and pray for a more open 2021-2022 season to come in the near future, and we are trusting that God will guide and direct our community as we continue to work towards opening back up.
If there is one thing that became clear to us in the midst of the pandemic, humans are wired for connection!
One silver lining for our ministry has been the existence of our coffeehouse. We were thankful that we could stay open for most of this past year, except for a nearly two-week period in the Fall. Constantly, we asked if we should shut down or if we would be forced to shut down. We made the ongoing decision that it was vital for us to continue to be there for our community as long as we could be, whether that was providing a place for someone to have connection, even if it was limited or curbside service. Or to continue to provide income to our staff. While campus was isolated and almost deserted, in the past year, our space was the opposite. Fairmount is a place where students know they can come and just "be," whether that is at a table alone or with a small group of friends.
We have learned some very important lessons during this past year. Many of these lessons we will carry through in future years of ministry. In the year the world stopped, we praise God for the many blessings we experienced during the pandemic. We give thanks that He continues to sustain our ministry endeavors to the university and our local community and that He provides us with what we need when we need it! We serve an awesome God!
Here are some recent pictures from campus and young adult ministry events that we think you'd all enjoy! Photos are from spring semester and are from College weekly Bible study, College Easter egg dying & game night, and Young Adult s'mores fellowship.