Campus faith groups adjust programming amid another pandemic-era semester | News
Student leaders from campus faith groups said they had struggled to adapt to the vagaries of a pandemic over the past two years, but expressed hope for the prospects of a return to normal.
As undergraduates return to campus amid continued public health regulations, student leaders said the pandemic has made socializing, a traditional component of their programming, a challenge.
Juhee Goyal ’22 – social chair of Harvard Dharma, the College’s Hindu group – said the pandemic prevented her organization from hosting a retreat at the start of the semester. The group has postponed the retirement until April, according to Goyal.
“The sense of belonging that we usually start the semester with is something that we’re going to have to gradually build up instead of being able to head into that,” Goyal said.
Yet religious groups have found ways to adapt.
Malika Umar ’23, co-president of the Harvard Islamic Society, said Covid-19 had forced her organization to find new, safe ways to come together and foster friendship.
“We did this thing called ‘Fajr and Flapjacks,’ which is basically our morning prayer, where we meet in the Musalla, which is the Muslim prayer space on campus,” she said. “We worship together, then we get takeout, then we eat at our respective places.”
“Last Friday was the first time we could do [congregational prayers] this whole semester,” Umar added. “We adjusted.”
Chinaza Asiegbu ’22, co-president of Harvard College Faith and Action, said her organization has largely been able to maintain normal programming, such as weekly Bible studies.
“We have been truly blessed to see even more people wanting to learn more about God and what it means to be in a Christian community, and to see that growth has been exciting,” said Asiegbu.
Although they have faced challenges over the past two years, faith group leaders were optimistic about the future of their programming as restrictions ease and cases drop.
Umar said the Harvard Islamic Society hopes to engage its members through study breaks and movie nights in the future if public health guidelines permit. Dharma plans to hold study breaks and game nights to further engage its members, according to Goyal.
Zehan Zhou ’22, co-president of the Harvard Maarga Buddhist Student Association, said the group plans to organize outdoor excursions to help members relax and practice the Buddhist faith.
“There is a lot of work, there are a lot of courses. We just want to take that element of stress out of people,” he said. “We just want a lot of people to learn new things about themselves, learn new things about other people at Harvard, have the opportunity to meet new friends.”
—Rohan Rajeev can be contacted at [email protected]