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The Surprise of Online Learning: An Interview with Alumna Sarah Chestnut

March 22, 2021
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“I had my doubts about how the ‘Regent experience’ would translate to online learning. But by the end of the first day of the class I found myself shaking my head in amazement…”

Sarah Crowley Chestnut (MCS ‘09) and her family live and work at L’Abri Fellowship in Southborough, MA, USA. Sarah, her husband Joshua, and several of their colleagues had planned to travel to Vancouver during the summer of 2020 to take advantage of Regent’s Summer Programs, but had to change their plans due to the pandemic. We chatted with Sarah about the shift to online summer courses and what that experience was like for her.

You've already completed a degree at Regent. Why did you decide to come back and participate in Regent's Summer Programs in 2020?

Last summer the whole worker team at our branch of L’Abri had the privilege of taking a sabbatical, and while the shape of the sabbatical had to change significantly because of the pandemic, the hopes for the time did not change for me: deep rest; further equipping for the work I do at L’Abri; adventure and creative pursuits. While I was at Regent, spring and summer terms were highlights of the year—both for the diverse and unique course offerings themselves, and for the people from all around the world and across disciplines who brought a wealth of personal experience to the “deep dive” of summer school learning. In addition, Rod Wilson’s class, “Inner Life of the Ministry Leader” last summer was too pertinent to my own work to pass up!

Despite your cancelled trip to Vancouver, you decided to continue with Regent summer courses even when everything shifted online. How did you find the Summer Program online experience compared to your previous experiences of being at Regent in person?

Of course not being able to travel to Vancouver and spend time in the city and at Regent in person was a big disappointment, and honestly, I had my doubts about how the “Regent experience” would translate to online learning (three cheers for embodiment!). But by the end of the first day of the class I found myself shaking my head in amazement—both over the helpfulness of the course content itself, and over how human the experience remained. I found myself taking mental notes of how to do online teaching and ministry well, in case we had to move in that direction at L’Abri this year, too. It was evident that great care was taken not only in the preparation of the content of the course, but also in how it could be conveyed effectively in the online medium. There were even opportunities for something like chats before and after class in the atrium—which I happily took full advantage of!

You are busy with both family and full-time ministry, yet you came up with a creative and relaxing way to still make summer courses work for you during the pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you did?

Two of my L’Abri colleagues and I took the money we would have spent on travel to Vancouver and booked a local airbnb for the week of the course instead (still following local Covid restrictions!). We still gave ourselves the experience of being away from our everyday “normals,” and that dedicated time and space helped us receive the time as a gift, rather than turning the online class time into another item on the day’s checklist. We took turns cooking dinner for each other, and had plenty of time to process things the course was bringing up for each of us.

How has your Regent experience equipped you for the work you do now at L’Abri?

Hands-down the most formative thing about my Regent education was the care and attention given to the whole person, and the relevance of Christianity to all of life. To not only think about the Christian faith, but to learn to think Christianly about everything—which involves the ongoing transformation of the whole person—continues to be of central concern to me personally, and at the heart of the work of L’Abri.

No matter where in the world you are, join us for one of the many courses offered through Regent’s 2021 Summer Programs!

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