CAMPUS ministry without a campus was always going to be a challenge, but one Colleen Tracey was ready to take on.
Coronavirus restrictions had led to empty university campuses across the country, including at Australian Catholic University Banyo campus, where Mrs Tracey worked as campus ministry staff pastoral associate.
But the shutdown was not going to keep her from reaching out.
Mrs Tracey had overseen a number of ways to keep faculty connected like a 10-minute staff morning prayer online, an online campus lounge where staff could check-in, and a weekly reflection group every Thursday.
She said the morning prayer sessions had been wonderful.
“I had an email from a staff member today saying she was so grateful being able to connect online because she was feeling down and isolated after Easter,” Mrs Tracey said.
“She was very grateful for the opportunity.”
It came with the challenges of technology like “the dog on the lap and the kids in the other room” but was worth it to fight the isolation many were feeling.
There were practical considerations to prayer online, too, like leaving extra time for silence in case of lag.
But there were benefits too, like the ease of using music or imagery through sharing the computer screen.
“We may not be looking at each other’s faces, but we might be looking at the mountains or an ocean while we’re praying,” she said.
“That’s a new added bonus of praying with technology.”
She said she had never been busier.
“People are hurting, people are feeling that real sense of isolation; so, I spend all day connecting through prayer or through online chats or in groups,” she said.
“My joy and strength comes from the sense of solidarity that we’re all in this together and the power of prayer.”
ACU Identity and Mission associate director Mark Lysaght said God was present in every moment whether that be in faith, reason or COVID-19.
“Our role as I see it is to provide distraction in the distraction,” he said.
“The spirit of the age is busyness and driven-ness and we don’t want to replicate that to an online environment.
“What we want to make sure is that we are reminded of the saving and loving grace of God in a moment such as this.
“It is what makes us ACU, it is our defining characteristic, that God is present in every moment whether that be faith, reason or COVID.”
Mrs Tracey said more than ever people were willing to give something new a go.
“I think that’s why people are engaging more as well because they want to feel connected but they can do it from the comfort and safety of their own home,” she said.