President's Postscript | COVID-19 and God’s Faithfulness
by J. Derek Halvorson ’93
The spring semester of 2020 was truly like no other semester in the college’s history. We, like most colleges and universities, had to make a dramatic pivot at the midpoint of the semester in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the span of just a couple weeks, we moved from operating as a tight-knit, residential, academic community to delivering courses remotely while also seeking to maintain our community bonds via all the means available to us in a time of physical distancing. The abrupt end to on-campus education was a crushing blow to our graduating seniors. It was also a crushing blow to students in the midst of lab research, to spring athletes, to musicians preparing for recitals, to artists preparing for gallery shows, to theater performers preparing for The Sound of Music, and to every student who didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to roommates and friends.
The transition to remote delivery of courses was no small challenge for an academic community deeply committed to face-to-face education and all of the intellectual, social, and spiritual benefits wrapped up in that time-honored approach to the formation of thoughtful and well-prepared followers of Jesus Christ. In spite of the challenges inherent in such a rapid and dramatic transition, our students, faculty, and staff responded with remarkable determination, adaptability, flexibility, tenacity, patience, good humor, humility, and care for one another. It was a truly beautiful thing to witness the manner in which the Covenant community responded to this challenge with the love of Christ and with an unwavering commitment to being equipped to explore and express the preeminence of Jesus Christ in all things.
As I’ve had opportunity to witness God’s faithfulness to the college firsthand in this crisis, I’ve found myself having to repent of being surprised by that reality. If one reads the histories, one can’t help but be aware of the remarkable ways in which God has provided for the college over its sixty-five years of existence. There have been times when staff and faculty had to go without paychecks. There have been times when the college couldn’t have gotten a loan if we’d wanted one. There have been times when accreditation seemed to be at risk, or when enrollment was tanking, or when operating budgets didn’t balance, or when capital projects went millions of dollars over budget. In every one of these circumstances, God was faithful to provide for the needs of the Covenant College community. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t real suffering and that difficult decisions didn’t have to be made. It does mean that God supplied what was needed—the resources, the insights, the people—to ensure that Covenant would continue to be able to pursue its mission. And, in fact, God used those trying situations to grow the college, to make it a stronger and better institution.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me. Scripture is replete with stories of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. Like many Christians, I’ve been reading a lot in the Psalms over the last couple of months. These ancient songs are a gift because of their honest lament and also their hopefulness. The Psalms are realistic about pain and suffering and loss. They also regularly remind us that God is with us, that his steadfast love endures forever. I’m prone to forget that reality in the face of trials, and yet Paul even encourages us to consider it joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness, or endurance, or perseverance. Those are qualities we need in abundance in the current circumstances. What an encouragement to know that in God’s design, these are the very fruits of the experience, the trial, we are now undergoing.
So, as we continue to navigate the fallout of a global pandemic that has seemingly turned the world upside down—at least for a season—I am encouraged. I am encouraged by the remarkable manner in which the Covenant College community has responded; encouraged by the history of a college that has endured and even grown through trials at least as severe as the one we face; and encouraged by the regular reminders found in the Scriptures that our God is faithful—that He is the sovereign Lord of the universe, and that He loves us.
This magazine was largely laid out prior to the coronavirus outbreak. While you may see some references to the outbreak in these pages, for the most part, we’ve left the magazine as it would have been…in part as a celebration of the rich community life that we enjoy at Covenant College and that we look forward to returning to in the months to come.
Until God brings us together again,
J. Derek Halvorson '93