How religious groups are adapting

Joseph Stanger, Staff Reporter

CWU’s religious groups are changing the way they meet and interact with one another due to the stay-at-home order. Online software has become the main mode of communication for events and activities among the students who actively participate in these groups.

“We’re trying to be as supportive of the governor’s orders as possible,” Lead Salt Pastor Paul Stoeckl said. “[We’re] encouraging and asking our folks, the people who follow us, to stay inside and stay quarantined and not be a risk to anyone else.”

Salt Ellensburg is a college and young adult ministry connected with Mercer Creek Church. According to Stoeckl, they meet on Tuesday nights and feature “most of the main stuff that other churches do, with time to hang out, worship, preaching, or bible study.”

According to Stoeckl, Salt’s member count has fluctuated between 250 and 400 in the last couple of years. Under normal circumstances, students in the group can volunteer and serve by volunteering at FISH food bank or doing yard work for local seniors.

“One of the main things that is unique or special about being a part of Salt is that it’s connected to an actual church here in Ellensburg,” Stoeckl said. “That gives you the opportunity for sharing community with people who aren’t just college age students, getting mentors and everything from folks who are a little bit older.”

The group also participates in fun physical activities including ultimate frisbee and two-hand touch football. Salt also organizes trips like camping retreats in the fall and snowboarding/skiing retreats in the winter or summer. 

In regards to how the mandatory stay-at-home order has affected the group, Stoeckl said, “probably the biggest overall blow is that it’s hard to maintain and create and have genuine community when you can’t see each other and be around each other. On top of that, all of our mission trips were canceled for the year, and all of our fun local events.”

Salt is trying their best to adapt their group to an online format. They’ve increased their online and social media presence and completely adapted their live services into livestreams. In order to do this, certain members of the group film different aspects of the service, collect them together and then post them online.

Another group on campus, Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM), is a Catholic student organization with about 40 members.

 “We’re kind of a smaller, more focused group,” said CCM Peer Minister Jeffrey Harn, an electronic engineering major and junior at CWU. “It’s very personal… we’re able to go a lot deeper into our conversations and spiritual talks and everything.”

CCM used to provide on-campus mass for students in the SURC every Sunday, but with the stay-at-home order, the group is unable to hold their normal weekly activities and events. 

“We don’t know how the future looks, but our spring retreat is looking to be canceled too,” said Harn. “It’s definitely been a change, but we’ve been staying connected online… either on Discord or through Zoom.”

Pablo Reulas is a sophomore majoring in electronic engineering and is a member of CCM. This is his second year as a member of the group.

“I joined CCM because I wanted to expand my knowledge about my faith and to join a club with people that had similar beliefs to me,” said Ruelas. “I get to learn more about my own faith through myself and through others around me.”

Ruelas said he misses seeing his friends in CCM. According to him, there’s a noticeably smaller amount of conversation between the group, and they can only see each other through virtual meetings.

Because the stay-at-home order is still in effect, most Easter services were canceled or moved online to livestreams. CCM decided to leave the Easter celebrations to people and their own families.