Increased restrictions on meeting due to COVID-19 have sent Sydney’s three Anglican theological colleges into cyberspace.
As of Thursday, March 19, all classes at Moore Theological College will be delivered online until the end of the academic term in April. At Mary Andrews College (MAC), lectures have been postponed for a week to prepare lecturers and students for a new eLearning platform. Youthworks College students will have two weeks of study and research, while the Year 13 program will move to two weeks of supported study before scheduled holidays.
This change, in response to public health advice announced on Wednesday, will affect nearly 400 full- and part-time college students across all three campuses, plus the 73 participants in Year 13.
The principal of Moore College, the Rev Dr Mark Thompson, says, “We believe that this is the only responsible decision in the current circumstances.
“We have been paying careful attention to the best and most up-to-date medical advice, [and] over the past week in particular, the situation has been changing very rapidly indeed… What this moment gives us is an opportunity to act with godly wisdom and generous love in a way which commends the gospel we proclaim.”
"an opportunity to act with Godly wisdom and generous love"
For the new principal at MAC, the Rev Dr Katy Smith, it’s hardly been a quiet first week in the job.
Yet, she says she is thankful to be at the college during such a time.
“Entering the brokenness and messiness of life is part of what we do as women seeking to serve faithfully in the church and in God’s world,” she says. “Being able to support our students, staff, and faculty through this new messiness is a privilege.”
She says that the college will seek to recreate an in-classroom experience online, with opportunities for interaction and collaboration.
“It could well be that, when we re-emerge socially together again, aspects of the interaction and collaboration strategies will remain and so our learning strategies will be strengthened from this experience,” she says.
"our learning strategies will be strengthened"
A helpful pilot in the face of "imposed self-isolation"
Youthworks College already teaches youth and children’s pastors and lay church leaders overseas and around Australia through its online learning platform, which CEO the Rev Craig Roberts describes as “a helpful pilot” for running classes “in the face of imposed self-isolation”.
“We’ll be pivoting to online learning and that begins next week,” he says, adding that the whole team is “working to respond to the ever-changing landscape with the sure and certain hope of the gospel in our hearts and on our lips”.
"we have the sure and certain hope of the gospel in our hearts"
While Moore College held its graduation ceremony earlier this month, the MAC and Youthworks ceremonies have been postponed until a later date.
Dr Smith says MAC will reschedule “once we’ve received public health advice that it is safe for the community to regather in person.
“We are looking forward to celebrating together [although] perhaps there could be grief ahead for us, too. Coming together again as a community will be a significant marker that this period of self-distancing is over and to bring before God both our thankfulness and lament together.”
The residential retreat element of a Youthworks College diploma subject, which Mr Roberts describes as “a feature of term one”, has had to be cancelled, while Year 13’s annual mission to Fiji has been postponed until September, in line with Government travel advice. Moore College’s mission, which would have seen teams in the Solomon Islands, Bathurst, Armidale, Maitland and in churches across the Diocese for a week from late March, has also been cancelled in its original form. Students will instead explore how it is possible to do mission when people aren’t able to meet face to face.
Says Mr Roberts: “In a time of such uncertainty, our culture, our country and our churches need – more than ever before – people equipped with a faith deeply rooted in the saving gospel of Jesus Christ”.