The seasons are changing. Usually in the fall, we look out our second story Upper House windows onto a campus teeming with students. Usually around now, we are welcoming students by the dozens to “Open Study,” or hosting up to 500 for an All-Campus Worship night that rocks our building with music and super-charged energy. But now it is clear that “usually” is a word that no longer applies during this pandemic season.

We have a confession to make, we are sad that we cannot be open as usual. We miss our community members and in-person gatherings. We miss seeing people’s faces and wide-open smiles. We miss the energetic flow of fall campus life; having students hang out at our in-house coffee bar (A Just Brew); greeting students scattered at tables, working on laptops; seeing students stretched out on Upper House’s ginormous orange couches, thumbing their phone screens, reading, or napping. We miss meeting new people. We miss greeting old friends. Our space is meant to be filled, and it feels particularly empty now as students sequester in place to stave off an upsurge of COVID-19.

As members of the University Religious Workers community, we recently met with UW leaders to learn how we might continue to serve and support students this fall. In particular, we were encouraged by one UW leader who described her and her staff’s mindset as they hourly address shifting circumstances: We try to exercise gratitude, resilience, grace, and an ability to pivot, she said. Her intentional vocabulary captured how she wanted to proactively function, despite the sometimes “no win” challenges she and her team daily confront.

So how are we exercising gratitude? 

We are grateful when students make mature decisions to act responsibly—caring for others, wearing masks, maintaining distance yet not forsaking community.

We are grateful for dedicated ministry partners, who see the big picture and support our ambitious efforts to deliver first-class programming and pastoral care, both virtually and to small groups of people.

We are grateful for technology that allows us to connect with our community, even though we prefer to shake hands, hug, and sit around tables eating great food and gleaning great ideas.

We are grateful that God is still God: good, wise, caring, loving, forgiving, and present. Regardless of how we feel, God never changes.

Daily, as we adjust, flex our gratitude muscles, extend grace to family, friends and coworkers, resolve to be resilient, and pray for the sick, we burrow into this truth: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

May you, too, find God a steady refuge, strength, and ever-present help as you navigate a life where certainty and security can feel elusive. We hope you know we are grateful for you. And that, too, never changes.