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Christian Union: The Magazine
November 11, 2021

CU Gloria Reaches Out to Freshmen, Returning Students

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

It’s easy to recall March of 2020. The growing alarm about the COVID-19 pandemic, cases emerging in various parts of the country, the uncertainty of what might happen, the beginning of lockdowns, working from home, and some hospitals overflowing with patients. It was a traumatic time for everyone and the beginning of what would be many losses for individuals, families, businesses, and our nation. 

But for college students, the shelter-at-home orders meant being uprooted—literally being sent home no matter if home was welcoming or hostile. It also meant being separated from their community, forced into online education, and putting on hold the college hopes and dreams they had long held. 

1 CU GLORIA RET 1 editedHarvard Students and Christian Union Faculty at the CU Gloria Fall Retreat

After slogging through hours and hours on Zoom courses, students made their grand re-entrance to campus this fall. However, a post-Covid college campus looks very different from when they last attended. Many friends had graduated, campus regulations remained tight, and the mental toll the pandemic exacted meant many students were returning more soberly than exuberantly. 

But for the CU Gloria executive team, the return to campus and a changing spiritual climate meant the opportunity to reach out to a campus that was more hungry than ever for community and the hope of Christ.

Felix Perez, a vice president at CU Gloria, says being on campus has been an enormous relief and joy as the community gathers together in person as one body for the first time in months.

“It’s been absolutely amazing. To have taken for granted so many privileges that were ripped away and now having those restored feels like coming up for a breath of fresh air after living a year underwater,” he said. “I love being able to get meals with people and talk face to face.”

As students prepared for the annual pre-retreat to plan the Freshman Campaign and the ensuing fall retreat, many were nervous about Covid, especially how they would plan events so that attendees would feel safe. The executive team was also keenly aware of the strict regulations for student organizations, protocols for hosting events in line with campus rules, and that many incoming students felt unsure about attending events safely. 

To that end, junior Katherine Wang, who also serves as a vice president for CU Gloria, said that part of the new life on campus is regular testing, which, for several CU Gloria students turned up positive in their first weeks on campus, sending them into a two-week in-room quarantine. 

Wang says individual quarantines are part of the new normal and can prove to be discouraging weeks in isolation as ministry responsibilities are passed to others who are able to fulfill them and campus life carries on without them. This time of isolation, however, can also be a fruitful time of prayer and resting in the Lord who sustains the work of the ministry. 

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In spite of positive Covid tests and ongoing quarantines, Perez thinks that the spiritual climate is changing on campus and fostering “a planting season for the gospel.”

“Like any crisis, the pandemic forces people to analyze what they put their hope and trust in,” she said. 

Wang agrees: “I feel like a lot of my peers are either really busy this semester trying to make up everything they lost or they are super open and realizing there must be something deeper to life after spending a year by themselves. I feel like people are more open to trying new things and that is a huge gospel opportunity. God has opened my eyes to talking to people...I think something has changed in a lot of hearts—[there is] a thirst to know why there is so much joy in some people and not in others.” 

Considering how the past year and a half impacted the ministry of CU Gloria overall, Wang notes that moving everything online had its challenges as well as its blessings.

“When we left campus last spring, a lot of us were worried that when we were at home it would be more spiritually dry. Very quickly students were experiencing Zoom fatigue. It was a challenge trying to balance interaction while also taking a break from the screen.”

Wang says that in spite of being online, many vital aspects of the ministry like prayer meetings and group discipleship continued faithfully during the time away, creating an environment of growth and maturing in the challenging season. These seeds that were sown while away are proving to sprout new life now that everyone is back on campus. 

Hours of prayer for revival at Harvard are turning to real life conversations in dining halls, invitations to Bible courses and the weekly LLS, DOXA. The pandemic has brought about much suffering, but perhaps it is precisely here that the Lord is doing his work; deepening a thirst for the truth and a hunger for something more than academic success and prestige.

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