Virtual campus ministries
Campus ministries keeps students connected to the light
In times of difficulty, Bluffton University pastoral assistant Makenzie Speakman, turns to John 1:5, “There is light in the darkness, but the darkness will not overcome it.”
As she finalized her spring semester from home instead of campus due to the coronavirus and stay-at-home safety measures, the junior from Carroll, Ohio, turned to the verse more than ever.
“It is a constant reminder to me to not only look towards the light and the positive parts of life, but to also stay positive and be that light for others who may be experiencing darkness,” explained Speakman.
Speakman and fellow students on Bluffton’s campus ministry team along with campus pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata ensured Bluffton students had the resources to continue their spiritual development at home.
“The university’s sense of community has remained amazing although we are so far apart,” said Meghan Ream ’22, a ministry assistant from Delphos, Ohio. “Continuing Chapel, holding club meetings and being able to tutor and interact with people from campus remotely has been a huge help for me.”
Chapel continued during its weekly Thursday morning time through Zoom videoconferencing instead of in-person at Yoder Recital Hall. Bible studies and small group spiritual development activities also continued by electronic means—through YouTube videos, chat groups, text exchanges, phone calls and messages of hope shared on social media.
“I appreciate that I’ve gotten to stay connected with those I’m used to working with,” said Amy Marshall, a ministry assistant from Pickerington, Ohio. “Being involved as part of campus ministries has helped me in this time. It has helped me maintain a sense of normalcy and responsibility. Although I’d prefer seeing people face-to-face, I am thankful for Zoom and Facetime.”
New opportunities also formed. For example, Marshall started a weekly “Explore the Bible” series on Saturday evenings. Later, the meetups were followed by jam sessions with ministry assistant Spencer Garrison, who also coordinated the music for the Zoom Chapel services.
“I have learned that there is more to college than just classes, sports and activities. It is really about the people that you get to experience all of those things with,” said Garrison of West Salem, Ohio. “I did Instagram Live videos and played music as a way to still connect and spend time with them in a way.”
During Chapel, instead of asking outside speakers to share the weekly sermon, Intagliata either shared the message himself or invited current students and recent graduates to speak. In his final Chapel message, because of the end of the academic year and because he is retiring, Intagliata shared a quote from Catholic priest and author, Henri Nouwen, which he hopes resonates with students today and into the future.
“Joy does not depend on the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives. Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that while our world is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world. God’s light is more real than all the darkness, God’s truth is more powerful than all human lies and God’s love is stronger than death.”