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The Antelope

The Antelope

Campus churches adapt amid pandemic

Churches are making changes such as social distance seating and offering services outdoors. 

Despite changes this semester, UNK students are continuing to worship on and off campus. Churches are adapting and overcoming obstacles to make services available.  

Fr. Neal Hock, chaplain of the Catholic Newman Center at UNK, said faith plays an important part in many students’ lives.  

“Whatever your faith is, if you’re allowed to have an opportunity to practice that in the midst of school, it makes the mind able to really focus on what it needs to focus on,” Hock said. “It’s a critical thing that we’re able to do that and able to provide that opportunity for college students to be able to go and practice the faith.  

Ministries have accommodated students to make services possible. 

Places of worship have put forth guidelines to deal with the pandemic. Many events and gatherings have moved outdoors, masks are requested or required indoors, hand sanitizer is available, social distancing is observed, surfaces are sanitized, buildings have reduced capacity and some services are live-streamed. Extra care is also taken when meals are provided.

Even with new obstacles, each place of worship is still keeping the people its primary focus.  

Kora Severance, a sophomore and incoming Kearney eFree C20 Worship Leader, is  positive about the way things have been going.  

“I think they’re trying to make it as normal as possible, so I really appreciate that,” Severance said. “The hardest part is not being together with your worship team beforehand, and I think I miss the community the most…but otherwise, church services aren’t terribly different.”  

However, social distancing has made it a greater challenge for some pastors to connect with students.  

The new Campus Lutheran Pastor Elisabeth Pynn Himmelman has been trying innovative ways to connect to students.  

“I’ve been doing these one-on-one coffee dates with students who have reached out to establish relationships, and they’re looking for a place to worship,” Himmelman said. “And I  think it’s very important [for young adults to have] a connection to God and to spirituality.” 

Campus Lutheran hasn’t begun offering church services yet this semester, but Himmelman will hold candlelight services Wednesday evenings starting in Oct. 

Many students look to religious groups for a sense of community. Aryanna Warner, a sophomore majoring in 7-12 math education, is a participant in activities at Christian Student Fellowship and is a member of the prayer and setup teams there.  

“It is such an important part of the college experience, especially as a freshman,” Warner said. “Getting involved really helped me, and, especially now, it’s really important for me to stay  connected to those organizations.” 

Himmelman also desires a feeling of togetherness.  

“I hope that there is a sense of community and unity around caring for one another and just in the midst of confusion, always looking towards one another and taking care of each other,” Himmelman said.  

These ministries desire to operate and serve students for as long as possible. “We’re doing everything that we can to make sure we can stay together safely,” Warner said. “CSF and other campus ministries are a great way to provide hope in these kind of tougher times.”  

“The beauty is that we can be a partner with the university,” Hock said. “We want to walk with them.”  

 Places of worship provide solace to many students and members of the community. 

“I think it’s important to remember that there’s a purpose behind everything,” Severance said. “I think that the bad things in our life that happen to us are causing us to grow, so being able to worship during times like that [helps us] to remember the positive side of things instead of focusing on all the negative and the bad things going on.” 

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