Ambrose University and Pandemic-Related Restrictions and Expectations
What does it mean for us to be a Christian university in the midst of a pandemic? In particular, what does this mean for us as we seek to live out our mission through the particulars of being located in the province of Alberta, of membership in Campus Alberta (part of the Alberta post-secondary system) and in affiliation with our sponsoring denominations.
First, our primary point of reference is our call to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This means that we honor God in all we do and, more, this means we actively seek the wellbeing of those we live, work and study with. We care for one another; we do all we can—all we can—to protect the health and wellbeing of the other. Our first point of reference is not our "rights" or prerogatives; rather, the example of Christ calls us to set aside any rights and look to the wellbeing of one another.
In part this means that in being vaccinated we are taking care of our own personal health—a responsibility that we all have. But it also means that we know that we do not live in isolation but in community, and that our actions impact the health and wellbeing of others.
Second, we acknowledge the role of government to care for the citizens of the city, the province and the country as a whole. This is inherent in their mandate. We might not always agree with all the ways that the government might do this; but as a rule, we observe the laws that require us to wear seatbelts and we recognize the right of the government to call to account those who drive under the influence. As such, we will work in a collaborative way with our government officials—both elected and within the Alberta Health Service. They are our allies in this regard. And further, we are part of the Alberta post-secondary system and this brings with it a range of obligations: we have to work with the Minister for Advanced Education and with our peer institutions, seeking a response to the ongoing pandemic that fosters our capacity to provide quality post-secondary education for our students.
Third, our Christian identity also means that we keep in touch with peer institutions such that, as a smaller, Christian, private university, we may not always choose a course of action which larger public universities might follow. But also, we take seriously our affiliation with two evangelical denominations. On both counts, we share a conviction that vaccines are a vital way by which we fulfill our Christian responsibility to each other and to our community. Neither the Alliance nor Nazarene denomination offers a "religious exemption." For example, both denominations assume that those serving internationally will observe the laws of the land where they are serving and will be fully vaccinated—against COVID or any other disease requiring a vaccination in the country to which they are called, as a way by which they care for their own health and those they are called to minister to. And at Ambrose University we also require compliance with government direction on the matter of vaccinations. It is the right thing to do for the health, wellbeing and protection of our peers and colleagues.
What all of this means is that our response to the pandemic is an opportunity to live out what it means to honour God, love our neighbor, work collaboratively with government and civic officials and, ultimately, foster a climate of safety and hospitality as a teaching-learning community. No one is obligated to study at Ambrose. But for anyone who chooses to enroll, we ask for patience on the one hand and due diligence on the other, such that whether it is vaccines, masks or physical distancing, we are doing all we can for the sake of one another.
Gordon T. Smith