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A Revival Tent at Calvin Seminary

October 7, 2020

Like other schools this year, Calvin Theological Seminary has had to make changes to the way everyone on its grounds lives, works, teaches, and learns due to restrictions caused by COVID-19.

The seminary has had to be responsive to many changes in the past six months to ensure that the focus on its mission remains at the heart of what the school does and at the same time responds to the immediate pressures of its context while ensuring safety and love for neighbors.

In August 2020, as Calvin Seminary approached the opening of the academic year and the return of resident students, there was a lot to prepare for, said seminary officials.

Like many institutions, the seminary wrote and communicated safety protocols, posted signs all over the buildings, fitted classrooms with plexiglass to protect students and faculty, and provided sanitizing supplies.

On the teaching/learning end, faculty created courses and prepared to offer them through a flex model so that if students were unable to come to class for any reason because of illness or requirements for quarantine or isolation, they could login remotely to a classroom session at a moment’s notice through Zoom.

One change that has featured prominently in navigating this new landscape is the Revival Tent, as it has come to be known. A large yellow and white tent, installed in the south parking lot of the seminary grounds, the tent was set up to add extra square footage to the building capacity and to provide a space where the seminary community could gather outdoors for large meetings.  With room for up to 36 people socially distanced, the tent has hosted several significant seminary gatherings, including a seminary staff retreat in August, a post-convocation reception with refreshments, a scholarship breakfast of students and donors in September, and many large classes.

From time to time, informal meetings of community members gathering for lunch or just to chat under the tent have provided a welcome time of relaxation and revival as well.

With the arrival of cooler temperatures in the fall and the approaching winter season, the seminary will soon have to say goodbye to the tent as a gathering place, however.

Reflecting on this, seminary officials said they are reminded of the season that the school itself has come through — a season that has been challenging but that has also taught people to be flexible and creative in unanticipated ways.

The experience has also been a reminder that while change remains a constant, the seminary’s mission continues to be the goal to which it strives: to form church leaders who cultivate communities of disciples of Jesus Christ and to equip them for biblically faithful and contextually effective ministry of the Word, in person, through distance programs, or via a combination of both.