When the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) moved online this year in response to COVID-19, it lost some of the aspects that attract people to the Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) program in Harrisonburg, Va., each summer, like in-person networking and conversations shared over meals. But it also opened the door for many to attend who otherwise couldn't due to travelling and attendance costs, visa complications, and work commitments, says SPI director Bill Goldberg. This year, more than 180 participants from 27 different countries tuned in to SPI sessions via video conference. For a few groups, the online format and lowered cost allowed them to enroll an entire team. The Jamaica Mennonite Conference sent four pastors to SPI, sponsored by a grant from the C.P. and Izetta Yoder Mission Endowment Fund administered by Everence. Clyde Kratz, executive conference minister of Virginia Mennonite Conference, who applied for the funding to assist in equipping the Jamaican church leaders, says that, had SPI not gone online, he would have only been able to sponsor one attendee, given the costs of transportation, lodging and meals. A team from the Church of England's Diocese of Chester also found this an opportunity to learn together. Seven priests and administrators attended the online "Trauma, resilience, and healing in times of the pandemic" course taught by Al Fuertes.
—Eastern Mennonite University