Dear Members of the Seminary Community,
Grace and peace to you in mid-summer. I hope you are able to find some time for recreation in these months, even briefly or imperfectly, during this most unusual summer. Thank you for everything you are doing to support yourselves and your families and maintain the fabric of this community.
I’m writing with an update to set some expectations around how our community life might operate when we return in the fall. The plan for academic instruction is being designed to be flexible so that students and faculty may teach and take all classes remotely if needed. While remote instruction is a necessary adaptation we have made during this pandemic situation, our intention and hope is to move toward returning to in person instruction and community gathering – but only as conditions allow.
In-person instruction is a high priority for many students and important for the incoming class of residential students. Learning to communicate and build relationships while maintaining social distance is a skill we will need to practice as a community.
In response to student surveys as well as faculty needs and preferences, certain courses will allow students the choice to participate either in-person or remotely. These courses will be:
- CMH5317 Couples, Parents, and Family Systems – Gena Minnix
- CMH5321-1 Clinical Internship 1 – Awa Jangha
- CMH5321-2 Clinical Internship 1 – Dena Roberts
- H1310 History of Christianity I – Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski
- M1110 Engaging Borders I: Rule of Life for Vocation – Steven Tomlinson
- L2310 Introduction to Preaching – Cynthia Kittredge
- TE2310 Theological Ethics I – Scott Bader-Saye
- H3330 Episcopal Church: Past and Present – Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski
- P3350 Leadership, Administration, and Finance – Steven Tomlinson
- T4333 The Trinity – Tony Baker
- W1310 Research and Writing– Tony Baker
Some other classes will have occasional, optional in-person meetings or activities. The in-person elements of these courses will meet in campus spaces that have been adapted to allow for social distancing. Safety measures will include the requirement of masks, entrance and exit directions, and a rigorous cleaning schedule between classes.
To maintain a community of in-person worship, we will worship outdoors and in-person on Mondays and Thursdays in accordance with the guidelines from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Online worship and ChapelVue will continue according to a regular schedule similar to how we managed this in the spring. Expect a separate communication with more detail about how we will worship this fall soon.
Now more than ever, I believe it is critical we maintain a community of formation beyond the classroom. We plan to create opportunities to gather, with social distancing, in connection with New Student Orientation, Matriculation, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and other learning events and celebrations. These events will look and feel different than what we know well, but we are committed to maintaining the connective vitality of each that is key to education and formation here.
While we may not be able to gather with the same frequency or style as we are accustomed, the gatherings will be an important dimension of formation. We will be living into this new reality together. Because of the importance of this ongoing formation in community – especially under these restricted conditions – students in the priestly formation programs (MDiv and DAS) are expected to be in residence in Austin this semester. Some accommodations may be made under special circumstances.
As we are all aware, this pandemic situation is fluid and can change quickly. Unfortunately, we must be prepared for these plans to change or be modified at a moment’s notice. No matter the situation, we are adapting our operations and practices in order to provide the formation that students are here to receive, while maintaining an environment that is as safe as possible during this public health crisis. You can expect further details and refinement of this plan in the coming weeks.
The work to prepare for the fall semester is intense and ongoing. I am grateful to the staff and faculty for the creative effort they are putting into reimagining our life together, even in the face of fear and uncertainty.
You are in my prayers, and as always, please reach out to me or any of us in seminary leadership, if you have questions or concerns.