We believe in the absolute sovereignty of God over all things, down to the details, even the Coronavirus and its spread and containment. We should not be overly anxious about this threat, but neither should we be careless. To that end, please utilize this page as a source for information related to Bethlehem College & Seminary and the Coronavirus. We will update this page with additional information related to the virus and operations at the school as necessary.
August 14, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives in many ways. We did not expect to move to online courses for the second half of the spring semester, but God helped us make it work in surprisingly effective ways so that we were able to help 55 graduates finish their programs this year. Nonetheless, our educational model is intensely relational. We view education as a subset of discipleship, and discipleship is difficult to do online. Therefore, we are prayerfully planning on resuming face-to-face instruction in the fall semester.
The following report and student protocol document, linked below, provide a plan for our events that surround the beginning of the year, the ongoing community in our school, and our classroom procedures. In all of these plans, we will abide by the requirements of the state of Minnesota and recommendations from the CDC. We are prepared to move from in-person to online meetings (and vice versa) if necessary; however, our intentionally small student body, our non-traditional campus setting, and our cohort model all set us up well to resume classes in person without most of the challenges that large universities with thousands of students and large campus events will face.
April 24, 2020
Statement by Timothy C. Tomlinson, PhD
Lord willing, and with a commitment to remain compliant with all public health and safety regulations, Bethlehem College & Seminary will resume in-person class instruction when school opens for the Fall Semester on August 24, 2020. A highly-relational educational environment is distinctive of our program, and our intentionally small scale affords us an extraordinary capability to get back to business-as-usual when compared with larger institutions.
We expect to have a reasonably normal enrollment of under 250 students in total and to maintain individual class sessions of less than 20 students per class session, in well-maintained facilities easily configured for social distancing, if necessary. Sociability and fellowship have always been an essential aspect of our educational model. We simply accomplish it in smaller gatherings that we’ve seen yield deeper, long-lasting, indeed, eternal relationships.
Bethlehem College & Seminary has been committed since its founding to offering a Bible-saturated, academically rigorous education in an intentionally small setting that enables authentic personal relationships between students and their professors, and each other. We have further been committed to making this education available at a fraction of the price of comparable institutions—$6,000 per year on average—such that our students can graduate and launch immediately into life and ministry without debt. We are grateful to God for the generous contributors to The Serious Joy Scholarship. They make our high-value, low-overhead model possible.
To the students completing the current semester, we look forward to seeing you again on campus in August; likewise, to students accepted for admission in the coming school year. To those whose educational plans must be reconsidered in light of the world’s pandemic plight, we invite you to give Bethlehem College & Seminary a second look, or perhaps even a first one. We will be accepting applications and transfer requests right up to the first day of in-person classes.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-20, which states “Beginning on Friday, March 27, 2020 at 11:59 pm through Friday, April 10, 2020 at 5:00 pm, all persons currently living within the State of Minnesota are ordered to stay at home or in their place of residence.” The executive order does provide some exceptions, but for the most part, all residents must stay home for the next two weeks.
The Bethlehem College & Seminary community is seeking to comply with this order to every extent possible. The Downtown Campus will be closed from March 27, 2020 until April 13, 2020.
We are thankful that our Lord is overseeing and superintending this significant event in world history. We pray that his name will be seen as great and proclaimed by many. We thank our Lord that we can still provide online courses and have community with our friends and loved ones.
We also pray that the Lord will keep you and bless you as you live and move and breath and study. May the Lord give you new insights into him, his word, and this world as you read and think and write and study.
Chapel, Commencement, and Library to Also Be Virtual
(Minneapolis, MN) – – – March 18, 2020 – – – Bethlehem College & Seminary announced today that all class sessions in the U.S. will be conducted online through the balance of the spring 2020 semester. “We are continuing to respond to a fast-changing set of circumstances related to the Novel COVID-19 outbreak and are following guidance from federal, state, and local public health officials,” said President Tim Tomlinson. “We are trusting God to afford us both protection and ability to fulfill our gospel and educational missions as best we can, by means we are confident he will supply,” he added. The school has previously announced a two-week shift to online instruction after spring break, an approach that will now continue for the balance of the school year.
The school further announced that 2020 Commencement ceremonies at the main campus in Minneapolis will also be conducted online. “While it is not yet clear how long social distancing restrictions will remain in force, the uncertainty makes planning for an in-person gathering impracticable,” Tomlinson said. “We are committed to commemorating the conferring of degrees in as appropriate a manner as we are able. Indeed, for these graduates it may be the most memorable commencement any of us have experienced, just by virtue of the challenges confronting the whole world at this time,” he added. Details will soon follow.
When classes resume the week of March 23, the weekly chapel at Noon on Wednesdays will also continue virtually in the form of an abbreviated video message distributed weekly at that same hour, featuring words of hope and encouragement from members of the Bethlehem College & Seminary faculty.
The library on the main campus will maintain stated hours through Friday, March 20, 2020, but then to convert to a closed service center model in which staff will be on hand to handle requests and provide guidance in using online resources off-site, but the library building itself will be closed to patrons for what is presently assumed to be the balance of the semester. Details will be distributed to students and faculty by the librarian.
President Tomlinson calls the entire school community to earnest prayer. “May we all go before God with personal conviction of our own sin and gospel hope for the unsaved, pleading with our sovereign king that he will pour out his mercy upon our land, leading many to his glory and sparing the most physically vulnerable among us,” he stated. “We pray in expectation of his good-working in all things and in the hope that we will soon be restored to our normal patterns of educational practice and community,” Tomlinson concluded.
We belong to a Lord and savior who is in charge of plagues and viruses. We need not fear. Jesus is sovereign over all the universe; every inch of which he declares, “Mine!” (Job 41:11).
For a helpful look at how we make sense of the Coronavirus, see the recent interview with Pastor John.
The following are a few key points to remember as we enter spring break.
Love, not Fear
Our desire in making these changes to our classroom attendance, building access, and social distancing is love. We seek to love others by working to minimize the spread of this disease. Anything we do on the front end of this pandemic will help reduce the spread on the back end. To that end, we seek to love our neighbor.
Review travel recommendations posted on CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel if you are planning to travel, and keep an eye on the news for updates on this evolving situation.
For employees, the following work travel restrictions (and requirements for self-quarantine for work and personal travel) are:
– Anyone who travels to high-risk areas must self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to Bethlehem facilities.
– Anyone traveling to an area that becomes high-risk during or shortly after returning from their travel must self-quarantine for 14 days.
– Out-of-state travel as a whole is discouraged, and employees are taking on their own risks for possible self-quarantine upon return.
– In general, work travel is suspended without extraordinary circumstances.
– Anyone who decides to do unnecessary travel for work is taking upon themselves the potential risk to self-quarantine without pay (can use sick time).
Regarding personal travel, we are not telling you not to travel. That isn’t our place. However, before you decide to travel please consider the following: If you travel to a known high risk area (these areas are changing rapidly) then upon your return you will not be able to return to school or work for 14 days. If you are an employee, you’ll be able to use sick time or vacation time to cover that time. If you travel to an area that isn’t currently high risk then upon your return you’ll be welcomed back as usual. However, if the area becomes high risk while you’re at that location, or while you’re returning, or even once you have returned for a couple days, then you will be subject to the 14 day restriction. This risk is yours to take.
Bethlehem Baptist Church
Bethlehem will be moving church services exclusively to live streaming (no gatherings) and canceling all events until further notice.
Beyond those details staff should also know:
– All church offices will be opened on a limited basis for necessary appointments.
– All staff, in coordination with your supervisor, are welcome to work from home.
Next week Bethlehem College & Seminary is on spring break. The library is open reduced hours and has the hours posted on the website.
Bethlehem College & Seminary is taking precautions given COVID-19 and is holding online-only classes and suspending large group events until Monday, April 5, 2020. The library will remain available during this time but with limited hours:
Library Hours between March 14–April 4:
Monday–Thursday: 9:00am to 7:00pm
Friday: 9:00am to 5:00pm
We will notify our community if access to the library changes.
You can visit the library’s website calendar to verify hours. Signage will also be on the front door of the library building.
As a reminder, please wash your hands with soap and warm water thoroughly for 20 seconds and cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. In addition, if you have any flu-like symptoms, please stay home and do not come to the library.
It comes as no secret to you that the whole world is presently responding to a global pandemic of the Novel COVID-19 virus. To date there are only three confirmed cases of the virus in the State of Minnesota, but it seems wise that we take at least some preliminary steps toward containment of the virus in our own community. That being the case, let us assert here that our hope is not in containment but in a sovereign, benevolent God who is himself the hope of the world.
I want to announce to you a decision reached today by our Executive Council.
When we return from spring break on Monday, March 23, we will conduct classes online via an array of Google applications and not gather together for classes, chapel, or anything other than the most essential meetings until at least Monday, April 6. Details on these procedures will soon be forthcoming, such that we might even be able to demonstrate this approach in classes this week. Students and employees, please pay close attention to your bcsmn.edu e-mail addresses as we navigate this period together.
We will be issuing further general instructions regarding the management of your own and others’ health during this containment period.
The larger share of cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the U.S. to date have been travel-related. As many of you may be traveling over spring break, it seems wise to give ourselves a period thereafter to reconnoiter and reassess. We also want to acknowledge that while many of you may regard yourselves as young, healthy, and sturdy in the face of such health threats, we do our business here amid of a community of others, many of whom are more advanced in age and therefore more vulnerable. Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor obliges us toward such care for them.
We are sure that you will have many questions, as do we. For the while, students and employees should pay close attention to their bcsmn.edu mailboxes and direct any inquiries to Cody Sandidge or Barb Waldemar if you are a student, to Acting Dean Bruno if you are a member of the faculty, and to Jason Abell if you are a member of the administrative staff.
We are trusting God in all of this, praying that the wave of vulnerability sweeping the world might be used to cause many to see and savor Christ for the first time—indeed, that this might even be an outworking of revival throughout the world.
Dr. Tim Tomlinson
Status of COVID-19
As of March 9, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed 423 cases of COVID-19 in the US, many in persons repatriated from China or the cruise ship in Japan. At this point, there have been 19 deaths in the US attributed to COVID-19. According to news sources, only one case has “presumptively” been confirmed in Minnesota. For reliable information, including answers to questions about COVID-19, visit the CDC website.
Here are some steps that Bethlehem College & Seminary is already taking or that we will be taking shortly:
– Custodians use industrial disinfectants and are taking extra steps in cleaning.
– Sanitizing liquids will be available near copy machines and other public facilities soon.
– Staff from both BBC and Bethlehem College & Seminary are meeting to discuss further steps.
The following comes from the Centers for Disease Control website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html)
For confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms can include:
– Shortness of breath
CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.
If you are experiencing symptoms, seek medical help immediately. If you are experiencing symptoms, do NOT attend classes or other events and do NOT come into work. Absence policies for both students and employees will be relaxed during this period. Please err on the side of staying in or staying home. Students or employees should not return to classes or work until they have been free of fever and other symptoms, without the use of fever- or symptom-reducing medicines, for at least 24 hours.
Please read these attachments prepared by the CDC for further information.