COVID and “WnW”: A look at COVID’s effects on Wednesday Night Worship

Imagine it’s 2018, and you live in Gough. It’s approaching 11 pm, and you decide to be responsible for once and start heading to bed. As you flick the light off and crawl under your sheets, you hear booming music vibrating the very floor and walls of the building coming from downstairs. Intrigued, you trot to the lobby to find the source of it all, and you see students from all over Eastern filing into Gough Great Room. Deciding to join them, you are welcomed by students with smiling faces and warm hearts; As the worship team transitions into the next song, you raise your voice with the crowd and the evening melts away in praise of God.

That’s how it used to go, anyways. After COVID shut everything down for a long period of time, the longstanding Eastern tradition that is Wednesday night Worship (or “WnW”) had to make some adjustments. I sat down with Kaitlyn Arrow, junior and a team leader for “WnW,” to talk about the event in its current form. Kaitlyn first experienced “WnW” during a campus visit as a high-schooler, and fell in love with the people and community: “It’s something you can’t describe,” she said, “you feel safety and a hope that is hard to replicate, seeing people worship in all different ways”. Kaitlyn joined the worship team as a sophomore Fall of 2019, but COVID soon forced the university to shut down, and the event was resurrected at the start of the new school year in a more COVID-friendly form.

Holding worship outside presents a variety of challenges and drawbacks for the Wednesday Night Worship teams. Kaitlyn mentioned that there is a lot more setup/tear down than there used to be. This means that the worship team can’t devote much time to mingling with the community. Furthermore, while worshipping outside can be great, Kaitlyn said nothing beats the ambiance of the dimly-lit great room filled with students and music. When everyone is spread out on the field, worship is more impersonal and it’s much harder for students to connect with each other. She also said it was harder for a student to come by themselves. Kaitlyn encourages anyone who has questions about pre-COVID “WnW” to contact any of the seniors on staff.

The two most obvious difficulties for “WnW” are winter and the weather. Last year, when it was raining or too cold, the worship team performed to an empty Great Room and an Instagram live feed. Singing in the very room that in years past was packed with worshipping students seems like an ironic reminder of how much the Pandemic keeps people apart. This school year Eastern’s COVID restrictions are much laxer, but as winter rapidly approaches, the “WnW” team has yet to receive any official word on how they can hold the event as the temperature drops. One potential plan is to hold it in the Great Room with vastly limited attendance, but Kaitlyn is against this plan herself, saying that “WnW” has never been about turning people away. She says, at the moment, Wednesday Night Worship will happen at 9:30 pm every Wednesday “until our fingers freeze off or our equipment breaks”.

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