I have watched and re-watched a video produced for our graduates this year, especially the testimonies from our graduating students concerning what their study and formation at Perkins have meant to them (more on this below). A time of crisis can reveal nascent values, commitments and capacities. In the midst of the profound tragedies and unexpected challenges of COVID-19, we at Perkins School of Theology have held tightly to our mission to teach, study and prepare students for faithful leadership. We have learned to adapt and innovate while teaching, celebrating the graduating Class of 2020 and preparing for summer courses – all online.
Like thousands of other schools, we shifted abruptly to teaching entirely online in March. Virtual study halls were created for students to be in community and conversation as they concluded the semester. A new Perkins Virtual Community Facebook group was created to share joys, opportunities, events, recipes, art, poetry and even parody songs. Faculty and staff were invited to share lunches over Zoom and enjoy “happy hour” fellowship, including trivia night. The governance work continued with weekly meetings of administrators and regular online faculty meetings. The Office of External Programs added new digital offerings, including a series for youth workers during COVID-19 and a webinar series with Prof. Jack Levison.
With commencement ceremonies postponed until August, we looked for creative ways to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2020. The Graduating Seniors Worship Service is a long-standing tradition at Perkins, but in 2020 it was wholly conducted over Zoom. In addition, we also had an end-of-the-year virtual gathering of the community in which we recognized retirees, presented awards to students and premiered the aforementioned video with words from some of our graduates and blessings from our faculty and staff. This year, each graduate also received a special gift in the mail as a tangible reminder of their time at Perkins.
Naturally, all courses were shifted to online for the summer, including Dallas-based classes, Houston-Galveston classes and the Course of Study. The creative hybrid design of the Houston-Galveston program has provided a significant foundation for our online teaching. I deeply appreciate the integrity and effort demonstrated by both faculty and students that have allowed us to continue our educational mission safely during this challenging season.
Perkins School of Theology covets your prayers as we continue to join together for teaching and learning, worship and song, study and celebration. We remain joyful in and grateful for our connections – whether virtual or face-to-face.