In Time of Social Distancing, New Ways to Worship Emerge

March 23, 2020

Candler students are no longer on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down much of the world. But that won’t stop the school from providing ongoing opportunities for an integral piece of seminary life: worship.

Assistant Dean of Worship and Music Khalia J. Williams says that upholding worship life is key to moving through this crisis and reminding Candler students, staff, and faculty that they are still united in Christ. “Worship is an important part of who we are as a community at Candler. It holds a central role as the place where we come together to be stretched, nurtured, challenged, empowered, and reenergized as a family of believers doing the work of theological education.”

“While the way we will connect through worship will look different and take some getting used to for all of us, it will still provide us with moments of spirit-filled devotion, prayer, reflection and music that connects us in our praise to God,” Williams says. “Our hope is that these moments will help offer a piece of God’s sustaining power in this time.”

Working with Williams to create what she calls “devotion moments” are sixteen students who work for Candler’s Office of Worship. In a typical semester, these students help plan chapel services and serve in leadership roles during worship. Now they are geographically spread out and meeting over video calls, so their work and collaboration may look slightly different, but it’s arguably never been more important.

“It has been a gift to watch our team shift to thinking virtually about our community’s worship engagement,” Williams says. “Their creativity is astounding, and I am honored to work with them in these times. They truly have the pulse of the community in mind, and are carefully cultivating the virtual worship life through their efforts.”

This cultivation includes reviewing more than 200 archived videos of past Candler worship services and prayerfully determining what pieces to share as social media posts. Students are also writing prayers, recording songs, creating audio recordings of prayers, editing videos, and managing the Office of Worship’s social media channels, where these touchpoints will be published.

“We decided to use each day of the work week to offer a different element of a worship service,” Williams explains. “The idea is that within a week, we will have all connected through the movements of a worship service together, giving us multiple opportunities to stop, breathe, worship, and redirect our energies.”

These daily offerings will begin March 23 on the Candler Office of Worship FacebookTwitter, and Instagram channels.

“I hope the students and wider Candler community will see these virtual worship opportunities as moments to pause and pray, sing, lament, find hope and courage, and just breathe,” Williams says. “With the constant news updates and the heightened anxiety of our students, staff and faculty as they move to online learning and working remotely, I hope these moments become a reminder of our community’s care for one another, our resilience, and God’s divine love. Ultimately, I hope they are opportunities for us to remember who we are, and whose we are, in a time that is calling every aspect of our lives into question.”

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