How to Stay Spiritually Active from Home

by Nathan Foster

Amidst COVID-19, as Azusa Pacific University students returned home and began online classes, they had to adjust to life without many of the constants that helped sustain them spiritually while on campus, including chapel. APU students usually go to chapel three times a week, learning from renowned pastors and worshiping alongside thousands of their peers. Many students did not realize the chapel before spring break would be their last for some time. While navigating so many changes and uncertainties, a strong relationship with God is perhaps now more important than ever. With this in mind, the Spiritual Life team created a plan to offer one chapel a week online and created a podcast dedicated to helping students keep their walk with Jesus steady.

“None of us could have anticipated how this year would unfold,” said Coba Canales, Ed.D., dean of Spiritual Life. “We continue to place our trust in God. We’re strengthened by the promise of His presence with us and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.” To support students through this time, Canales and the campus pastors film one live chapel a week on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Students can watch it in real time, or watch it later on YouTube. “We remain committed to providing resources, spiritual care, and encouragement to our students.”

In a recent online chapel service, Ta’Tyana Leonard, associate director of Corporate Worship and campus pastor, dove into the passage of Luke 22:39-44 and explored the similarities between Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives and our situation today. “The coronavirus has caused anxiety and fear in our communities. It’s shut down schools, churches, and even cities,” she said. “But I see hope in this as well. I see families spending time together, more than they ever have. I see churches getting creative and spreading the Gospel more than ever. I also see Christians needing to rely and trust in the Lord in ways they’ve never needed to before. Even though it feels like God is not answering our prayers in the way we want Him to, just like in the life of Jesus, God is keeping promises right now.”

To supplement chapel, the Spiritual Life team added a podcast series entitled, “Weekly Rhythms,” with four episodes so far. In the fourth episode, Wesley Parker Reed, discipleship coordinator and campus pastor, offered a piece of advice. “Spiritual disciplines are Christian practices that remind us that we are inherently spiritual beings who are desperately in need of connection with the presence of God to truly live an abundant life through all seasons,” Reed said. “They’re habits that create a very real space for God to work in our thoughts, our feelings, and even our circumstances. They’re ways for us to work with the Holy Spirit, whose desire is to cultivate spiritual growth within us.” Reed suggested students use this time to practice spiritual disciplines and grow their faith.

Canales offered another idea for students to practice during this time—contemplation. “Take advantage of this time to sit back and ask big questions. God, what have you been doing over the last year of my life and during my time at APU? Where have I seen you at work? Who am I and am I who I want to be at this point?” Canales said. “We don’t usually ask these questions because we’re busy running from one class to the next, or from work to hanging out with friends. Our schedules, especially as college students, are impossibly hectic. Right now, it’s different. Build in a space for contemplation, reflection, Scripture reading and prayer.”

Canales recommends reading the Psalms because they capture every range of human experience and emotion. He also suggests a verse to reflect upon: 2 Timothy 1:7, which reads “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” “That’s important to remember. We should not be driven by fear. We should recognize that God is still with us, even during this time,” he said. “For that reason, I also recommend our university passage, John 14. At the end of it, Jesus talks about giving peace to us and not being afraid. God is still giving peace to us through it all.”

The Spiritual Life team is available for students remotely so they can receive spiritual care, including pastoral counseling and prayer requests. APU’s Contemporary Chapel Band created a playlist for students to listen to on Spotify or Apple Music while they work from home. Students can find additional resources on the new Together APU site designed to keep students engaged through virtual community.

Nathan is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. He is a senior double majoring in journalism and public relations.