Of all the ways that my life has changed because of the coronavirus, the change that seems most stark is the lack of casual, unstructured interaction that I have had with students during the school year.
In normal times, over one hundred students walk through the doors of Lutheran Campus Ministry’s student center each day. Many of them stop to linger at the huge pots of coffee that are found in the main hallway, or chat for a few minutes with others gathered around the fireplace in the lounge.
I was blessed to meet a handful of these students each day and hear a few thoughts about what was going on in their lives. Coursework. Their families back home. The political climate. Movies or podcasts. Trips planned for weekends or breaks.
Before the pandemic, these tiny conversations didn’t seem all that significant. They were just part of the background of my life and ministry. Rachel was getting ready to take the MCAT. Nathan had been accepted to Law School. Sam was going on a camping trip with some friends.
But for the past 12 months, and most acutely since September, I have missed these interactions and the ways that they wove the lives of the students who passed through our doors into a kind of community. Each caring conversation was a tiny thread in the larger fabric of Lutheran Campus Ministry.
As I imagine what life will be like in September this year, I find myself reminding myself to never again take these kinds of interactions for granted. To savor the communities of which I am a part.
At the same time, one of the blessings of this time of virtual community has been the ways in which I have seen how the LCM community stretches through time and space.
I’ve been holding a weekly coffee break on zoom – a kind of pale imitation of the natural gathering around the coffee pot at the student center. One week, I was joined by current students here in Madison, a recent alum who is now living in California, and two students now working on graduate degrees in Michigan.
In conversations like these, I have realized that the fabric of the community woven together in this place extends far beyond Madison and far beyond the students who find themselves in school at this time. One of the blessings of a virtual community is the reminder that our connections in Christ Jesus, and through this ministry, stretch far beyond the ones we make in person today.
Thank you for being a part of this community of faith, part of the fabric of this community. May God continue to bless you.
By Pastor Emily Tveite, Director & Campus Pastor