A teachable moment like few others

Safwat Marzouk, Ph.D., associate professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, speaks at Pastors and Leaders 2018. (Credit: Jason Bryant)

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

Experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic as a global learning community is presenting unique opportunities to experiment with and model leadership in a time of crisis at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana — whether it be through “campus care pods” that are tending to the needs of campus residents; weekly Zoom check-ins with the academic dean; a student-led initiative to share funds from stimulus checks with students in need through a mutual aid fund; or the creation of a “Hope and resilience” webpage (ambs.edu/hopeandresilience) with resources for prayer, preaching, worship, pastoral care, spiritual formation and trauma healing.

In addition to making logistical adaptations to offer all courses and chapel services online during this time, faculty members are integrating into students’ learning processes reflection on the pandemic from theological, peacebuilding and ministerial perspectives. They’re also incorporating opportunities to practice and develop leadership skills for such a time as this. Examples include:

Janna Hunter-Bowman, Ph.D., assistant professor of peace studies and Christian social ethics, changed her Religion and Peace Processes course to include examination of Christians’ differing theological approaches in response to the pandemic. Students are reflecting on their experiences and exploring transformative ways to engage crisis and conflict constructively during this time.

Rachel Miller Jacobs, D.Min., associate professor of congregational formation, shifted the final project in her Christian Worship: Theory and Practice course to be designed for worship via Zoom rather than in person. For her course on Faith Formation and Spirituality: Family Spirituality, she plans to engage connections between spirituality, resilience and intergenerational Christian formation in light of COVID-19 as an Adverse Childhood Experience.

Safwat Marzouk, Ph.D., associate professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, is teaching a three-session series via Zoom for two congregations in California and Indiana on how to read the Bible amidst pandemic.

Jamie Pitts, Ph.D., associate professor of Anabaptist studies, was interviewed by Perdian Tumanan, an MA: Theology and Peace Studies student from Indonesia, and other Indonesian theologians on “Doing Theology in the Time of COVID-19” for their YouTube vlog, Theovlogy, in May.

Allan Rudy-Froese, Ph.D., associate professor of Christian proclamation, will address trauma and preaching in his Preaching course. In his Biblical Storytelling course, students will work on staging storytelling for the camera.

Daniel Schipani, Dr.Psy., Ph.D., professor emeritus of pastoral care and counseling, adapted his Pastoral Care 2: Systems, Assessments and Interventions of Trauma course to address the multi-dimensional realities of disorientation and loss related to COVID-19.

Dan Schrock, D.Min., sessional faculty member, is changing his Spiritual Guidance Practicum so students will learn to offer spiritual direction by video call as well as in person.

Drew Strait, Ph.D., assistant professor of New Testament and Christian origins, adapted the final paper in his Strange New World of the Bible 2 course to focus on what the Book of Revelation has to say to a world under pandemic.

While the AMBS Library already had many resources available electronically for students at a distance before COVID-19, Karl Stutzman, M.L.S., director of library services, and Brandon Board, M.L.I.S., information services and online learning librarian, extended these services to all students and faculty and developed an online guide to help users access materials.

Brent Graber, M.A., information technology director, noted that practices implemented by AMBS in the past to enable distance learning meant that fewer IT adaptations were needed this spring; the pandemic offered an opportunity to extend and refine these practices.


Photo: Safwat Marzouk, Ph.D., associate professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, speaks at Pastors and Leaders 2018. (Credit: Jason Bryant)