CU student goes “old school” in connecting during COVID

By Heidie Rainey - Cedarville University

CEDARVILLE — When Kelsey Laing, senior women’s ministry leader, went home for quarantine in March, she went beyond social media and texting to stay in contact with friends by writing them letters.

Months later, she came away from that season inspired to create a pen pal ministry opportunity for women to encourage one another through handwritten notes.

Laing, an early childhood education major from Granville, ran for the women’s ministry leader position at Cedarville University with the goal of uniting the women of the senior class. She wanted to cultivate her class’ identity, joy, which they had voted on early sophomore year as a word to symbolize their class goals in ministry and spiritual growth.

Coming into the school year with COVID precautions in place, she looked for creative and socially distanced means of ministry, and writing letters seemed to fit perfectly.

“Sharing encouragement and our lives with one another brings us joy that we didn’t have before,” Laing said. “It’s great to share over meals or coffee, but those aren’t always possible. Handwritten notes offer that same personal thoughtfulness and are very COVID-friendly.”

With many women’s ministry events having to limit attendance, Laing is thankful for the opportunity to cultivate deeper bonds in unusual times.

“People are craving community, and this is a short way to show that we are still caring for one another and being intentional in how we do that,” Laing said. “Receiving notes brings a moment of joy, and having someone to encourage and be encouraged by through written notes is incredibly meaningful.”

When Laing introduced the idea to the women of the senior class via email in Aug., 14 women signed up for the program. She assigned each of them a partner and has allowed the pairings to determine how often and in what ways to communicate.

“I wanted a chance to get to know another senior girl and hopefully be able to reach outside of myself and encourage and minister to another lady,” senior participant Abigail Gessner said.

With the holiday season approaching, partners are also considering how to continue writing over the extended Christmas break. The last day of fall semester is Nov. 24, and the spring semester begins Jan. 19.

“So far my pen pal and I have written a total of five letters about each other’s families, hobbies and current stressors from school,” senior participant Julianne Croft said. “I’m sure we will stick to it over the break as well. It’s quite a long time!”

Looking forward, Laing is excited to reopen the program to more of the senior women after the semester break.

“I ultimately want to connect the women of the senior class, and in times like these, I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so in a sustainable and COVID-friendly way,” Laing said.

By Heidie Rainey

Cedarville University