Zooming in on the Chapel Spiritual Life fellows



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This article is a part of the Trinitonian’s coverage of Trinity University’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Click here to read the rest of our coverage.

Community, connection and care — three concepts that provide strength to individuals during times of crisis and, coincidentally, the three driving goals of Trinity Chaplain Alex-Serna Wallender and the fellows of Chapel Spiritual Life (CSL). As students, faculty and staff alike adjust to “functioning remotely,” the CSL team is no exception, continuing the remainder of their programming for the semester via Zoom.

Although the shift from being on campus to working remotely was abrupt, Serna-Wallender and the CSL fellows were quick to determine their next course of action.

“We actually met that Thursday or Friday remotely after we learned about the move to online,” Serna-Wallender said. “The things that we really value programming around [are] community, connection and care, and those three things are all the more needed in this season.”

Upon meeting, fellows shared their fears and concerns for the coming months and came to the unanimous decision to continue CSL programs, transitioning to a digital format. In agreement that their unifying role in the Trinity community was needed now more than ever, all eight fellows were eager to begin planning for the remainder of the semester.

“Of course, all of us were heartbroken, but all of us obviously instantly had in our minds our peers or fellow students and the changes they would be going through and maybe even the spiritual difficulties that they may face with these new adjustments to their lives,” said Catherine Phillips, senior and CSL fellow focusing on multi-faith. “It was really important to us that in the future we will continue doing a lot of programs remotely and that all of that’s programmed is very supportive of students and is what students want and, more importantly, what students need right now.”

Prior to Spring Break, the CSL team had already planned the majority of their events for the second half of the semester.

“We’re figuring it out kind of as we go along … We had a list of 30 programs we were doing between the time of Spring Break and the end of the semester,” Serna-Wallender said. “There’s a lot of things that we had planned for the remainder of the semester that we aren’t going to be able to do.”

While some events such as Interfaith Pilgrimage — group visits to local San Antonio sacred sites — have been canceled, others are being adapted.

“We’re carrying over our Worthy Questions. During the regularly-scheduled programming we have our Worthy Questions on Sundays. We go to Chaplain Alex’s house, the Chapel provides dinner to everyone for free and we talk about some kind of meaningful question,” said Adam Toler, senior and CSL focusing on spiritual life. “We’ve been able to transition that to Zoom and encourage our regular attendees to bring dinner with them to their Zoom call. That’ll sort of bring in an easy opening, even though we can’t share the same food anymore.”

Along with Worthy Questions, which is hosted by the spiritual life group within CSL, other successful programming such as the multi-faith group’s biweekly Interfaith Tea and Christian Life’s weekly devotional will also continue to occur over Zoom.

In an effort to bolster resilience among Trinity community members, the fellows are introducing programming across CSL social media called “Shared Inspiration.”

“One of the new things we are piloting right now and gathering is what we’re calling ‘Shared Inspiration,’ inviting students, faculty and staff to record short videos of themselves sharing a story, an anecdote, a poem, a sacred text, a practice that has been really meaningful to them in times of uncertainty and trial,” Serna-Wallender said. “We’ll start sharing those out as we get them in on our social media.”

As the fellows shift the focus of their programming in response to what students may be experiencing, Toler also hopes to be able to provide solace to individuals.

“It’s been getting a little bit heavy-handed that every conversation is about our situation, and it can be nice to think about other things,” Toler said. “For me personally, being religious and spiritual, I know that it can bring a lot of peace to really chaotic times to be able to lean on something greater than myself. It’s a really chaotic time, so any peace is absolutely appreciated and necessary.”