Emmanuel Community Stays Active, Connected during the COVID-19 Crisis

April 23, 2020

In recent weeks, the COVID-19 crisis has kept people apart physically but has led to an explosion of online engagement and virtual communication. Politicians have delivered messages from their homes, television hosts have brought viewers into their living rooms, and music concerts have been shifted to virtual platforms from physical ones. At Emmanuel, the community has been adjusting in much the same way.

On March 16 Emmanuel shifted to all-online teaching and completed the semester through this means. Next week the College will host its first course taught entirely through real-time online streaming, with Dr. David Fuller teaching on the book of Isaiah.

After moving classes online, Emmanuel decided to close its campus until further notice, meaning that all employees would work from home. In response, a number of staff and faculty members have gone online to connect with the broader school community. Earlier this week Dr. Hughson Ong filmed a Q&A session in which he responded to questions sent in through Facebook and Instagram. The video will be made available in the near future.

Next week will see a video conference called the Live Online Collaboration Event, hosted by Professor Kimberly White. In this conference, members of the extended Emmanuel community who are involved in ministry will discuss the challenges and opportunities of ministering during this crisis and will help one another come up with ideas for increasing their effectiveness. Those interested in participating in this free event are asked to contact Professor Whyte at kwhyte@emmanuelbiblecollege.ca.

For students and staff, online communication has also provided a way to stay connected with one another. Staff coffee breaks and meetings have been held through video conferencing, and Chief Student Development Officer Mark Walther has been keeping in contact with students via video updates.

Roxy Reader, the college’s human resources & officer manager, has noted that these trying times have come with at least some benefit: many of Emmanuel’s staff and faculty members are now becoming more proficient with digital technology. Although the College remains committed to in-person teaching and plans to return to this mode in the future, the school will likely benefit from employees’ newly developed skills and the exploration of avenues for online communication and collaboration.

Outside of the College’s operations, members of the school community have been active in many varying ways. Graduand Jed Gorham, who pastors a church in northern Ontario, has taken to social media to stay connected with his congregation. He posts a few encouragements per week and a longer message on Sundays. Other means of staying in touch, such as telephone conversations, have also proved useful. In spite of the current challenges, these adjustments have offered some benefits. “It has opened some new windows of opportunity with people we wouldn’t see every Sunday, and even in other locations,” Gorham writes.  His educational experience was not greatly altered this spring, since he was already registered to take courses through Live Online, which enabled him to participate real-time in on-campus classes through two-way online streaming.

Roxy Reader has also been making the best of the current situation. She avoids screens when not working and has been keeping her kids active, having them do baking and engage in a host of exercises and sports. Calls with family and friends have enabled those in her household to maintain and even strengthen relationships. Furthermore, Reader says that as bad as the virus situation might be, it has provided an important reminder that everyone is entirely dependent on God. “We can do nothing without Him, and we can do anything with Him,” she says.

To be sure, the spread of COVID-19 throughout Ontario and the rest of the world has brought with it much devastation and pain, and we at Emmanuel have not been spared from these negative effects. Yet, even in the midst of these struggles, the school is seeing how God can produce good from something as bad as a pandemic.

The featured photograph shows Professor Kimberly Whyte delivering a message to Emmanuel alumni from her home.