One of the most difficult tasks I've had recently, as Chair of the Mayor's Interfaith Council
in Washington, DC, has been to advise pastors to close churches. For many of us, our
houses of worship serve as a place of safety and refuge. We look to our communities of
faith in times of crisis. We always expect the doors of the church to be open. However,
leadership is about making the tough calls, including prioritizing the needs of the most
vulnerable. Beyond the faithful elders in our faith communities, many of our family members
have pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems which make them especially
susceptible to the coronavirus. We have and we must close our buildings, stay home, and
practice social distancing. That is not easy advice to give to people who enjoy gathering each
week. It is definitely not easy advice to give as many of us face Palm Sunday and Easter. And
yet, we know that God dwells in the people of God, not in the buildings.
Likewise, the Howard University School of Divinity is not a building- whether on East Campus
or West Campus. HUSD is a beloved community that has continued, uninterrupted, for 150 years,
in offering a rigorous theological education to men and women. COVID-19 has required some
shifts in how we offer that education, but our work must continue. We must continue to be faithful
to the work to which we are called.
Our students have all transitioned to remote-learning for the remainder of Spring 2020. I am grateful
that we have the technology which allows us to continue our educational mission, even in trying
circumstances. Howard University is offering students the option to take courses Pass/Fail,
recognizing the impact of the abrupt shift to online instruction. Students have access to the full range
of University services during this time, including library resources and mental health counseling.
Our Wednesday in-person chapel services are no longer meeting. However, we were blessed to gather
as a community via Zoom on Wednesday, March 25th. HUSD student and musician, Mr. Sam Perryman,
led us in praise and worship. Dr. Fred Ware gave us some inspirational words. We were all encouraged
to see each other, even in a virtual format.
President Frederick had the sad task of announcing that commencement for May 2020 has been cancelled.
This includes our own Honors & Awards Ceremony. Last year, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III was the speaker.
This year, we were scheduled to welcome the dynamic Rev. Dr. Leslie Callahan. This news is an enormous
disappointment for graduating students. HUSD will attempt to do something online in May for our outstanding
class of 2020. In addition to graduating MA(RS), MDiv, and DMin students, we have our first cohort of
MDiv /MSW students graduating this year.
Staff and Faculty
All faculty and staff are currently working remotely from their own homes. They are all
in good health and will continue their normal HUSD duties, while also attending to the
needs of their own families, communities, and houses of faith.
During these challenging and isolating times, please make a point to stay connected to
emails at: Divinityinfo@howard.edu. We also appreciate your continued financial
support at such a time as this: https: / / giving.howard.edu / givenow
2020 is HUSD's 150th anniversary, commemorating the year when Rev. Dr. John B.
Reeve was appointed as the first dean of the "Theological Department" at Howard
University. While we were able to have a celebratory Anniversary Worship Service in
February with Bishop Walter Scott Thomas, our Academic Symposium scheduled for
April has been cancelled. We are optimistic that as we continue our 150th anniversary in
Fall of 2020, the academic symposium, arts festival, and closing gala will all take place.
These are challenging times, but they are not times for despair. Howard Thurman
reminds us: "whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is
always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered
peace." There is a peace that surpasses all understanding which we can call upon, even
as we deal with the challenges of the "new normal." Our feelings of stress, anxiety,
disappointment, and sadness during this time are real and important to acknowledge.
We can also find beauty in the forgotten joys and unremembered peace of spending
time with our families, slowing down our whirlwind of activity, and enjoying time in
prayer and meditation.
Thank you for your continuing support of the Howard University School of Divinity.
We will continue to pray for all our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends. And we
ask you to pray for us as we face unprecedented times, but with full confidence that the
One who has begun a good work in us will be sure to complete it.
Yolanda Pierce, PhD
Professor & Dean
Howard University School of Divinity
2900 Van Ness Street NW
Washington, DC 20008