NEWARK — Daryl Howard had ideas for a student-led Bible study, but she never knew exactly how she would execute it.
A void, however, was left when schools were closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, so the Newark Catholic elder thought it was now or never.
Howard posted an invitation to NC Girls on his Instagram story, and the plan began to take shape. Howard now hosts weekly Bible studies online every Thursday evening.
“I originally wanted to do it during the school year, but I was a little scared to start just because there’s a lot of pressure when you’re actually around people every day,” Howard said. “I thought it was a really great opportunity because we don’t see each other and we miss each other.
“Obviously we can’t go to church and we’re missing our theology class at school, so this is a great opportunity to come together and grow in our faith during this time,” Howard added. . “It’s really relaxed. ‘If you can do it, come. Right now it’s just growing in the community while we’re apart, so when we’re together it can just be strengthened.
Howard relied on social media and word of mouth to get the idea gaining traction. The group of about ten regulars is taking shape.
“I definitely didn’t see it coming, but I feel like it’s a red flag,” junior Sarah Davis said. “This group gives me a sense of responsibility. Every week is a time for me to sit down and focus for at least an hour with these people and really work on my faith. This time gave us the opportunity to slow everything down.
As school buildings remain closed until at least the end of April, churches have also been encouraged to hold services online under Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order.
That meant watching Bishop Robert J. Brennan’s Easter Mass from St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the home for North Carolina campus minister Chris Grieb, and many of his students did the same.
Grieb is impressed with Howard’s initiative to take the lead in such uncertain times. Community service can take shape in many ways.
“What I emphasized to students, even before all of this, was the importance of living their faith in a real way and sharing it with others,” Grieb said.
“I’m just trying to put (tools) within the reach of our children and our families,” he added. “What I told them and the faculty is that we are going to get through this together. We share our faith every day in the school building; we have to make sure that we share it as much not anymore.”
Faith has long played a role in Howard’s young life. She attended the Centerburg Catholic Youth Summer Camp several times and was accepted as a missionary for the Damascus Catholic Mission Campus for the next two years.
Howard’s Bible studies, however, are far from preaching. The group is currently studying the Book of Romans and applying the teachings to their real-life situations.
“A lot of it is about how you should live your life and not be a hypocrite in your faith,” Howard said. “We read a few verses, and we talk about how it reflects in our lives and how we can change ourselves to live as the verse calls us to.
“This Bible study has really opened my eyes to how I constantly call people to accept their faith more, but I also need to keep going deeper,” she added. “In reality, you can never go too far in your faith. We are always called to keep insisting on it.
Howard hopes a return to school and church next month will make online sessions unnecessary, but the message will certainly continue.
Davis and a few of his classmates already have ideas for extending their commitment to service next year.
“I would really like to take on the role of Daryl and continue that way next year,” Davis said. “We actually had a conversation about how me and my junior friends could help strengthen the youth ministry program that we have. Maybe our school will go to mass several times and we will do other service projects.