In the face of unprecedented times

This summer began unlike any other summer in all our lifetime. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the news media began using words like ‘unprecedented’ and considering how little most of our lives were impacted in the last pandemic in 2002 with SARS, and the last time social distancing was implement was in 1918 with the Spanish Flu, ‘unprecedented’ is exactly what this year is. COVID-19 had upended our lives as schools, businesses, and our churches closed its doors and transitioned online. Graduations, celebrations, worship services, fellowship, everything had to be held virtually. All our plans and expectations were thrown out the window. However, little did we know how much would happen in the coming months.

As for our college group at PIF, we began to hold many virtual hang outs, engage more in social media and provide blog posts and many conversations to help us focus our hope and faith in Jesus. And as the spread of the virus flattened, we also took a few days to visit most of our college students with a refreshing drink. Having been home alone for many weeks, it was awkward to see someone in person for many of us but at the same time, I believe we all felt the pleasant surprise of joy in meeting in person too. We also wanted to lift up and encourage the hearts of our graduating class as well so leaders of our ministry came together to host a truly star-studded ceremony.

And as students were planning how to spend their summers, there really wasn’t much available for students to do and I desperately desired to plan something that would be spiritually helpful and beneficial. At the same time, my friend Austin from Commons NYC (IG – @commonsnyc), who I had been dreaming with to reach college students in our city together came to me with an exciting opportunity to combine the strengths and resources of many college ministries in our city to host multiple virtual hangouts of various interests and out from those conversations, I decided to host a morning hangout called Fresh Mornings.

For 12 weeks, we would meet virtually every Monday and Wednesday at 11AM ET for about an hour and discuss different habits of faith to encourage and challenge one another to try building these habits up in our lives. But as God does many times, it became so much more than that.

What a summer it has been

Over the weeks, many different people participated each week and took from them much more than just new information. We felt a sense of community and friendship of the faith as we partnered in growing in the spiritual habits that were encouraged by God through the Scriptures. For me personally, I would have hoped many more of our PIF college group students could participate but even then, many of our students did participate. 

And one of the greatest blessings of Fresh Mornings was that the topics we discussed did not remain in a vacuum of just spiritual jargon. When news of the tragic death of George Floyd began to shake our nation of injustice and racism, we were on the topic of the habit of prayer. That was one of the most powerful hangouts I was able to witness as we prayed together, confessed together, repented together and processed together.

And even in the weeks to follow, the deep questions of faith intersecting with society, politics, sexuality, things we all held onto inside began to surface as we began to find Fresh Mornings to be a safe and biblically minded space. In the midst of the sea of voices and ideologies that were contrary to our faith that bombarded us daily, Fresh Mornings became a place of refuge and clarity. All the while, discussing different habits of faith that would impact us for the rest of our lives.

For me, Fresh Mornings never became a chore to prepare for. Every week, I was excited to see who would join me and the conversations we’d have. And although Fresh Mornings has officially ended for this summer, I am excited as a pastor to create other opportunities like Fresh Mornings for our college students where we could build community and friendships of faith that help us keep our lives focused on what really matters, our relationship with God and living for His kingdom and glory!

What students said about Fresh Mornings

“Fresh Mornings have been really good for me… we really do need to be intentional about building good habits so that when we feel a little lost, we are able to prioritize and stay on track.”

“I can say that it was a very reFRESHing experience! Although I’m not too keen on meeting new people, my experience was very positive in that the environment felt safe and comfortable. With everything going on in the world today, I felt that Fresh Mornings was a great initiative to start everyday positively as well as acting as a safe space to initiate self-reflections as well as provoke intimacy with God.”

“Fresh Mornings has been a blessing leading to unexpected blessings… Fresh Mornings was awesome! (Do it again)”

“It was very fun, insightful and a good time to reflect. I met new people and got to see how they reflected on the topic!”

“Fresh Mornings was a good way for me to 1. wake up earlier and 2. have an outlet to learn and share about the Word”

“Fresh Mornings was a great way to start off my mornings… It was sure reFRESHing to meet in the mornings and start off the day with the Word of God and fellowship with sisters and brothers in Christ!… Fresh Mornings convicted me and rejuvenated my soul as I opened my heart and ears to what was being said. It was a great gathering that definitely blessed me and I hope to participate in something like this again in the future!”

“Thank you A MILLION for this hangout! I could literally write a whole book about the many ways how Fresh mornings has encouraged, strengthened, and grown my relationship with Christ this summer. Attending Fresh mornings brought to light the many habits I did not know about previously. I am SO stoked about carrying these habits into my college semesters. Fresh mornings encouraged me to let God be the first One I listen to when I first rise in the mornings, when I struggle through the day, and when I fall asleep at night.”