In a time where gathering is discouraged in an effort to keep each other safe, people have had to put get-togethers, gatherings, and meetings on hold. Many people have avoided meeting in large groups when possible and made an effort to stay inside. This has led various groups to cease activities, especially clubs and sports teams in schools. However, there is one club that has decided to stay connected and continue their group meetings.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes have decided to conduct their meetings via Zoom and proceed with activities despite most groups being discontinued for the time being. According to Travis Sutton, a health and P.E. teacher at Kempsville, as well as baseball coach and sponsor for the FCA, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a club for people who share a common passion for both sports and God. The purpose of the club is to learn more about their faith and encourage each other.
“I had a baseball player over at First Colonial. It’s been probably a good 14 years ago over at First Colonial, and then when I came over to Kempsville, I just felt like I was supposed to still try to work and figure out how it applied to Kempsville. So, we’ve tried different things over the years, but to be honest, the girls you’re looking at right now have really kinda brought it to a new level,“ Sutton said, referring to members Anna Bartosh, Caroline Daugherty, and Alli Schober.
“This is my fifth year doing it at Kempsville and these girls have kinda taken it off and just gone with it. There are a few other leaders who are not here, you have Selena, Sammy, aren’t here right now, but with their leadership, they’ve kinda really made it to where it connects with the student population at Kempsville right now. It’s been wonderful to watch them, it’s been really cool,” Sutton said.
The FCA meets weekly with activities and objectives in mind to properly conduct their meetings.
“Every Thursday we met for our regular meeting and we started off with an icebreaker, and prayer and snacks, and then the second half of lunch we would do our lesson from our FCA bible, like we read the passage and it has questions to go along with it,” Sophomore and member Anna Bartosh said.
This used to be the schedule the group would follow when attending meetings during school. However, although school is now cancelled, the FCA still follows the same schedule they once did in school.
“We are still trying to keep up that same schedule, so we’re gonna do some sort of ice breakers whether it be a trivia or two truths and a lie, and then we’re gonna do a discussion and we try to start it off with a song and then we’ll go into our lesson, usually it lasts around an hour, “ Bartosh said.
The FCA have had about eight to nine meetings since school ended and still proceed to have regular meetings on Thursdays and leadership team meetings on Mondays.
The members of FCA have said that they feel like continuing to meet is making them closer during this time.
For freshmen Caroline Daugherty, the cancellation of school has made the club much more important for her.
“Once you’re out of school and there’s not like a set schedule, you know, for me I don’t keep in touch as much as I should or want to, but FCA gives me a chance to see people and talk with people, A. who share my beliefs, because not everybody does and, B, gives me a place where I can talk about my faith and still in a school setting with people who I don’t necessarily have contact with otherwise,” Daugherty said.
Despite other clubs halting and cancelling activities until they can meet again next school year, FCA has decided to stay in touch, as staying together now is important for the group.
“I feel like some people need something steady and constant in their life and I feel like this adds some fun and encouragement in people’s lives and it’s a time to discuss problems and what’s going on. Like you have your own support group,” Bartosh said.
“And it’s a way to have a schedule, sort of. It helps with routine and everything’s changed, so it’s like something to hold on to and to stay the same, even though we’re not in school anymore and we don’t have sports and you can’t have lunch with your friends anymore but you still know that you can lean on things like FCA to be there and know that you have friends there and they’ll be there at Thursday five o’ clock.” Daugherty said, adding on to Bartosh’s comment.
“For most people who are in FCA, their faith is usually the most important thing to them, so it’s important that you keep on keeping up with it and having it as part of your daily routine, “ junior Alli Schober said.
Having the group continue to meet under these circumstances has meant an abundance of things for the members of FCA.
For former teacher Elizabeth “Liz” Halstead and her sister Ramona “Moni” Gilder, the continuation of the group’s activities represents hope and consistency.
“[It’s] very important at this time to have God in your life, because it’s a little hard to keep positive about things. To have this group that’s very, very positive, it helps. It helps everybody. Very uplifting,” Gilder said.
“I think for people that are on the outside looking in, they’re like, ‘Oh, those Christians think they have it figured out.’ I think it’s the exact opposite, I think once we’re on this side it’s not always easy. It’s tough to try to go by your faith in even times when you don’t understand and continue your faith even when you don’t see it and it’s like: ‘but I want the world to be different,’” Sutton said.
For Sutton, being a part of this group meant that the members could open up and be genuine with each other about being frustrated.
“You know, I’m human and I struggle with why things are happening or why things are happening to good people or why are people struggling financially, why people are struggling and why, why, why. You have all these questions and all these frustrations, and I think the Christian walk is a question of continuing to seek your faith but it’s also continuing to try and build each other up,” Sutton said.
With all the members still participating in these meetings, they can all agree that maintaining a relationship with Jesus holds some level of importance to them during this time. While the members don’t associate the concept of religion with a relationship with Jesus, the matter is still important to them nonetheless.
“I have no interest in religion. Religion is a bunch of rules; religion is a bunch of things that you have to follow. For FCA, we’re not interested in that, we are interested in the genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re interested in the genuine relationship; we’re trying to grow closer to Him, closer to God through Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins. Religion is not that, religion is nothing but a set of standards that are impossible for anybody to keep up with. Religion is burdensome. The cross of Christ is freedom. Freedom from our mistakes, freedom from shame, freedom from guilt, freedom from humanness ( I know that’s not necessarily a good word), we’re all human, we all fail and the cross of Christ is freedom and the cross of Christ is crucial to me and to my life,” Sutton said.
“I’d say having a relationship with Jesus is not a religion, it’s like a relationship, but having a relationship with Jesus right now is definitely very important but is also important in your everyday life, not just in the hard times and the good times, too. But I’d say yeah, it’s definitely important to have it right now, but all the time,” Schober said.
“I definitely agree. I think that if you don’t have a good relationship with Jesus, they’re your support system and being able to rely on Christ in your everyday life and especially during crisis, it gives you a sense of security and there’s a lot of uncertainty now of when is this gonna end, how this is going to affect graduations, even the new school year, but when you rely on your relationships and your relationship with Jesus, it gives me a sense of calm and order, I think,” Daugherty said.
Caring deeply about their relationship with Jesus, the group and its members also try to share this relationship with their friends and families.
“It’s been our total life. We can’t make a day without our relationship. We are finding peace and joy and contentment. Even though our surroundings are confusing and frightening, it could be frightening, but we still have the peace,” said Halstead, as she and her sister Gilder attend FCA meetings together and are active members of the group.
“ I know for me and my family, since quarantine has been insane, my church has really helped in countless ways,” said Daugherty.
Along with finding solace in other youth groups in her church, Daugherty is also comforted by attending church virtually with her family.
“It fills me with relief that church, even though we’re not meeting face to face, that we’re still connecting and it’s definitely helped my family. My siblings and I, we sit on the couch every Thursday night at seven when the youth group goes live on YouTube and it’s just nice to have something that’s there, even though we’re not physically together,” Daugherty said.
At this time, it’s the shared interests in maintaining a relationship with Jesus that has brought the group closer.
“We feel a lot closer with the girls and the students who have been on the Zoom meetings just because we’ve actively been able to communicate more with them,” Halstead said.
Schober believes that holding these meetings through Zoom is less awkward for the group and its members, as she feels the members have become more vulnerable.
Just as this shared belief has brought the members closer, it’s the same undivided ideal that has kept FCA together up until now.
“It’s definitely given me a lot of encouragement and not only that but also the perspective because I didn’t realize what some people were going through like the protest in Richmond, I didn’t realize that they were to open small businesses because they need the income to work. I didn’t really have that perspective, but one of our skits went over that and I didn’t realize that because it’s just — my friends don’t own a business. We’re here and my dad actually works in a hospital, he works at Norfork and so I get stressed sometimes because he’s out there and he’s treating people and it’s kinda scary, so I definitely stay home and just how my family works, we’re staying home, we’re definitely keeping our distance and when I heard about the protest, I was very concerned and I thought people were just being naive, but I didn’t realize what they were protesting for. So, our skit definitely went over that and I had an epiphany, I was surprised. And so, it gives me hope and perspective and it gives me happiness to see that people, even though they could be taking extra naps or finishing up school work, that they take time out of their day to pursue their faith even during quarantine,” Daugherty said.
“We’re not solid as a rock, we’re not always ‘we got it figured out’, in fact, we don’t have it figured out, but we have a God who does have it figured out. We have a God who was here today before we ever got here, He knows tomorrow before we have to even worry about it and I think oftentimes we just stop and we just pray like ‘Alright God, I’m gonna hold you to your promise. Promise to have hope in the future for me please, just help me. Help me have the courage.’ and I think He’s our helper, I think He’s our encouragement, and there’s so many verses that we’ve been able to share and just claim.” Sutton said as he talks about how the Bible provides him with promises to count on, even in times of uncertainty.
“We get to claim those promises because the Bible is the best love letter ever written and when you go there and all hear about how many different ways; it’s not condemnation, it’s not rules you have to follow. The Bible is just a love letter straight from God and as we just pick out the cards and say ‘Alright God, please I don’t understand, you know? You tell me to not claim my not understanding but I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on,’ but then there’s another verse that says, ‘ Even if you don’t understand, trust Me anyway’ it’s like, ‘ this is really hard, God, but I’m trying!’ So I think the Bible, if you look at it, it’s a love letter and you just hang on to the promises, at least for me.” Sutton said.
Overall, through holding these group meetings now over Zoom, the members can see these conferences that they’re having during self-isolation bringing them closer together in the future when they are able to meet again physically.
“I feel like we will kinda be a stronger group together because we’ve been through these tough times together and so when we’re together, like actually at school again, I feel like it’ll be easier for us to talk about the hard stuff because we’ve been through hard stuff,” Schober said.
“I also think it’ll make us appreciate it more because you don’t really see how valuable something is until it’s drastically changed, and honestly, I really miss being with, like in person, with FCA and realise how much it really means until we got into quarantine. It was a big change that really kinda made me rethink all of my priorities,” Daugherty added.