Contributing Writer | Jessica Berg
It is no surprise that the novel coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll in numerous ways for countless amounts of people. From navigating hybrid classes to keeping physical distance with friends, students of Samford University have had to face one of the most challenging, yet unique semesters in school history.
Cultivating the faith of the student body has been one of the most difficult tasks, as large group gatherings are either prohibited or strictly monitored. Samford’s Reformed University Fellowship community has experienced this firsthand, but they remain hopeful for the future of the ministry as the pandemic progresses.
The Center for Disease Control released a statement outlining its advice for faith-based groups.
“CDC offers suggestions for faith communities to consider and accept, reject, or modify, consistent with their own faith traditions, in… preparing to reconvene for in-person gatherings while still working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
While gatherings are not prohibited, the CDC encourages working closely with local and state authorities to comply with an area’s set regulations. Samford has done its best to abide by local guidelines.
RUF believes that finding groups to be a part of on campus is crucial for freshmen, and that the pandemic has only added to the stress of this process. The RUF ministry team has been intentional in reaching out to freshmen and transfers.
Freshman Talley Scarbrough shared her experience with RUF when she came to campus.
“When I first came to campus, I could tell RUF really valued its continued outreach to students, even with all of the restrictions,” Scarbrough said. “They have found a way to thrive even through everything and have been such an amazing and large part of my semester.”
Community outreach is a large part of RUF. Rebekah Marsh, RUF ministry team member, explained how most outreach plans have been adapted to respect coronavirus regulations.
“We have to be creative as we plan outreach events while keeping in mind social distancing, mask wearing and maximum capacity restrictions,” Marsh said. “We’ve learned to work together creatively to make things happen, and it’s been cool to see everyone step up to get things done.”
Before the pandemic, students who attended RUF had the opportunity to attend large group gatherings. These meetings were complete with music, announcements and a message. But as soon as the fall semester began, large group gatherings were prohibited by the university.
Sophomore Will Romerhaus has greatly felt the absence of RUF gatherings.
“Without having large group gatherings, it has really been a struggle to formulate new relationships with fellow classmates,” Romerhaus said. “I have fallen out of touch with lots of people that I would normally get to see and socialize with during group. In my opinion, having large group events is vital to the health and prosperity of our students, and needs to be brought back in the semesters to come.”
At the end of spring semester, RUF hired two new interns to be a part of ministering to students in large group studies as well as leading small groups. Even though fall semester had not gone according to plan, intern Clare Obenchain explained how rewarding this season of life has been.
“One of my absolute favorite parts of RUF has always been large group. Not being able to have it this semester has definitely put a spin on certain things in ministry. Large group is a big focus for us because the community builds naturally,” Obenchain shared. “Do we miss large group? Yes. Have we had to find alternate ways to connect to students and build community? Also yes. But the more true statement is that we believe in a God who is constantly at work in building His kingdom, with or without large group.”
With large group gatherings on hold, students have found other ways to grow in their walk of faith, including Sophomore Jonathan Russel.
“I have still been active and participated in Bible study that has helped me with spiritual growth. I’m also still active at YoungLife which I do at my old highschool,” Russel said. “The pandemic did make it difficult since we could not be in person for most of the time, so it kind of stinks to not be able to physically interact with people and only see them through my computer screen.”