‘Making plans, but holding them lightly’

Columbia Bible College academic year successful despite restrictions

March 24, 2021 | News | Volume 25 Issue 7
Amy Rinner Waddell | B.C. Correspondent
Abbotsford, B.C.
Masks and distanced desks are two of the changes students at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., have had to adjust to this past year. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

As the academic year draws to a close, students and staff at Columbia Bible College are reflecting on how the college has successfully navigated offering in-person learning despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. These have included reduced class sizes, mask fatigue, teaching behind plexiglass, and keeping resident and commuter students apart.

A high priority on safety protocols has assured the lowest possibility of viral transmission.

Bonner Wolf, the college’s marketing communications manager, reports that Columbia has had a few cases of COVID-19, including in residence, but was able to contain them without the virus spreading across campus.

He says that “things have gone better than we expected,” as all members of the Columbia community, in keeping with much of the rest of society, have had to adjust in the face of constantly shifting situations. “Everyone has had to adjust to the idea of making plans but holding them lightly. In a nutshell, all that we normally do has had to be evaluated, and regularly re-evaluated, to see how it can be adjusted or changed to fit the ever-changing provincial health requirements.”

One of the areas of significant change has been in the athletics and recreation department, where varsity basketball and volleyball competition seasons were cancelled.

“While disappointing for our student athletes and coaches, they have done an incredible job of staying positive throughout the year,” Wolf says. “Teams are still able to train but with physical distancing in place along with other COVID protocols for sport.”

Other members of the student body have also continued to be active.

“While our recreation programming had to make appropriate changes to meet COVID guidelines, we’ve been encouraged to see many students stay involved and active despite not being able to do all that they would like related to recreation offerings,” he says.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of being a student at Columbia during the pandemic is the restriction of gathering.

Trever Renshaw, who attends Level Ground Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, says the added stresses of this school year have at times been overwhelming as he has learned to adjust to safety protocols and associating with a smaller bubble of friends on campus. “Last year, my struggles were more focused on performing well in my classes, making friends and trying to engage in the [college] community,” he says. “This year has brought the additional struggle of having to be cautious with what I am doing.”

“A positive aspect of being a student at [Columbia] during COVID is that I have grown in my ability to let go of control and allow God to guide me,” he continues. “Letting go has always been a challenge for me, but my experience has taught me that it is all right to not be in control of my situation. Through this, I have learned to have grace for myself, as well as others.”

Wolf says, “Even with all these restrictions in place, students consistently told us they were willing to endure all of this inconvenience because being physically part of this community during this season was worth it.”

Do you have a story idea about Mennonites in B.C.? Send it to Amy Rinner Waddell at bc@canadianmennonite.org.

Masks and distanced desks are two of the changes students at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C., have had to adjust to this past year. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

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