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GTU Voices - Spiritual Reintegration in the Wake of COVID-19

Spiritual Reintegration in the Wake of COVID-19

By Uriah Y. Kim, Interim President

If the past two months have shown us anything about this unprecedented crisis that we are living through, it’s that we do not know what the future will hold. We are still uncertain of the full extent of what COVID-19’s impact will be on the world, our lives, or our school. I am optimistic about the future, especially with regards to the potential role that GTU and its community can play in finding a way forward through these new challenging opportunities.

As the nation contemplates next steps in the reopening of businesses and institutions, our focus is rightly on logistical and operational matters. Will counties allow retailers to provide curbside pick-up? What EDD (does this acronym need to be spelled out?) program benefits are available to workers whose earnings are impacted?  And, yes, at the GTU we are also working on the logistics of reopening our campus and offering courses in the fall semester while managing social distancing.

I am optimistic about the future, especially with regards to the potential role that GTU and its community can play in finding a way forward through these new challenging opportunities.

While questions like these are exceptionally important, if we have hope of ever truly reconstituting a healthy society, we also need to consider how we reintegrate on a communal, social, and spiritual level.

With more than 2 billion people (nearly one third of the human population) living under “stay at home” orders at some point over the past two months, few of the institutions and social customs we typically rely upon to help us forge and maintain community are likely to be at our disposal. The net outcome is that we have adapted to a lifestyle of relative isolation. We have been “trained” to stigmatize one another, necessarily, for our own well-being.  Fear about the spread of the virus is already causing some to shun one another, or worse, capitulate to sentiments of racism, xenophobia, scapegoating, and in-fighting at the highest levels of government, further undermining our already frayed social fabric. 

How can we combat this tendency and reconstitute our sense of community beyond the fear that coronavirus has generated?  

I am certain that our work at the GTU is essential for answering this question and for finding ways to reimagine and recreate a more generous and equitable community.

The Graduate Theological Union’s doctoral and MA programs have shaped, inspired, and empowered theological thinkers and doers who have made transformative impacts on countless communities and individuals and made positive differences for the common good in this region, the nation, and beyond. The work done daily at GTU provides a template for those who could help their respective communities rise above the din of our current crises. On any given day, you’ll hear students and teachers sharing ideas to come together, to understand one another’s points of view; you’ll find students and teachers congregating to worship in the manner they see fit, meditating on the better part of life, contemplating how they can move forward and improve the world around them. At the GTU, we find solutions for the soul. We collaborate and cooperate. We stand together, work together, learn together, so we can thrive together.  

I am certain that our work at the GTU is essential for answering this question and for finding ways to reimagine and recreate a more generous and equitable community.

In short, the GTU is a community of teachers, researchers, learners, and doers that encourages and sustains a healthy and caring society — one that engages across differences. 

As this crisis has made clear, this work—now more than ever—is an urgent necessity. If community is created in moments of sharing, it will be up to us to continue to find ways to do so in a spirit of generosity, calling on “the better angels of our nature,” if we hope to allow for this moment to offer us a brighter future to which we are all bound. I am confident we can rise to the challenge and be all the better for it. 

This is the final reflection in a series launched by the GTU called “Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times: Faith, Resilience, and Community in an Age of Uncertainty.” Through a series of written reflections, video lectures, and online resources, scholars, spiritual leaders, and cultural critics from across the GTU will explore the meaning of spiritual care, ethics, and leadership from a broad array of perspectives and traditions, offering inspiration, encouragement, and insights from both ancient and contemporary to speak to the current context. Find out more at www.gtu.edu/spiritual-care-through-crisis

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