The second semester of the 2019-20 school year began in January as scheduled.
In March came the mid-semester term break. Music Department and Pastoral Department students would take a breather while students of the Lay Ministry Department would leave and other lay ministers would arrive. Little were we aware this short break would be extended indefinitely. Covid-19 had reached Ghana. Taking immediate action, the Ghanaian president ordered all schools closed. Students went home and new arrivals did not come. We waited.
On 31 May the president announced a limited and staggered schedule for the re-opening of schools. After careful consideration and following government guidelines, the seminary leadership decided to call together a special session of classes. Classes would be held for only those students who were completing requirements for graduation, originally scheduled for June. In total, 39 music and 8 lay students would be invited to complete their work. As required, the term would be shortened from eight to six weeks. The wearing of masks and social distancing was to be observed. It was not known how many students would be able to attend this special session.
Classes resumed 22 June and four of eight lay students were present. (Two more would arrive the following week.) For me, there was a sensation of liberation! At long last, I would be working again. And, although limited, I would again be worshipping, teaching, and just with the students following a long break.
Life is returning and we are experiencing it differently. Worship does not have the excitement of the full student body’s voices raised in song. Gone are the wonderful special and extended offerings from the Music Department. Gone too, is the dancing. We sit, distanced from one another. Hymns are sung, with less gusto, through masks, and the voices of the worship leaders are muzzled.
Teaching is frustrating. The mask is hot and that is without all of the hot air coming from me. Given the difference in language, hearing the students is often a difficult task. Now, it is garbled. It is difficult for me to see signs if the students are comprehending what I am sharing, or have questions, or just wish I would move on.
I find it interesting how much facial expression is a part of the language. I wonder since the students cannot see my face, do my eyes convey any sense of what I am attempting to convey? Do my eyes express the concern I am attempting to deliver? Can the students tell if I endeavoring to be humorous, or sarcastic, or just making an off-the-cuff comment? Does my voice alone intone my feelings? I don’t always know.
Will we be allowed to resume our regular class schedule in September? We don’t know. As the rest of the world, we share life in an age of a pandemic, finding new ways to be together in sharing our celebrations and sorrows and giving thanks for the presence of God With Us.
Larry Colvin serves with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, OGHS, and your special gifts.