For two Tuesdays now, Reed Arena has once again pulsed with blue spotlights and echoed with the voices of students singing praises.
The mask mandate and faded red seats stood as markers for social distancing served at a reminder of COVID-19 protocol. A Zoom feed broadcasted the event to students unable to attend in person, their remote participation adding to the faces of the 1,500 who secured tickets for the limited-seating event. For over 20 years, Breakaway ministries have provided Christian students a place to gather on campus and experience worship and a sermon with their peers.
Back in person for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, Timothy Ateek, the Breakaway Ministries director of four years, encouraged the crowd.
“Even though we haven’t been meeting in Reed for seven or eight months, nothing has changed about the point and purpose of Breakaway,” Ateek said. “In my opinion, [the regulations] are worth it. We will do whatever we need to do to be back together.”
Students wanting to attend in person reserved a free ticket online, so crowd size didn’t exceed 1,500. Taylor McNeal, agricultural communication and journalism junior and Breakaway volunteer, said the ministry worked hard to create a safe environment for all students able to attend.
Attending in-person Breakaway for the first time, kinesiology freshman Claire Mallory said she was pleased with her experience.
“I was really surprised by how many people actually followed the rules, and I think everyone did whatever they could to stay in person,” Mallory said. “I honestly don't think [the ministry] could have done anything differently. They definitely followed all the COVID guidelines.”
Ateek said with more and more organizations turning again to in-person groups, adhering to COVID-19 guidelines becomes imperative.
Brittney Haby, agricultural communications and journalism sophomore and volunteer with Breakaway, said everyone in attendance followed the rules for the most part.
“I truly believe students did an excellent job following the rules,” Haby said. “When Timothy Ateek asked that we don’t make the night about rights, but make it about Jesus, I saw the very few that were not wearing a mask or wearing them improperly, put them on correctly for the remainder of the night.”
Haby said the attendees were asked to follow COVID-19 guidelines to preserve the opportunity for their religious services to continue in person.
“My team requested that we act as a good example, to pay the small price of abiding by the rules so we can have the wonderful outcome of joining together in the name of the Lord,” Haby said.
David Holt, agricultural communications and journalism sophomore and Breakaway volunteer, said the event still held the same meaning despite the new format.
“It was different, but comforting,” Holt said. “No matter the circumstances or guidelines, we are still praising the same God, which makes the experience all the same.”
In-person Breakaway looks to continue with the same regulations and ticket procedures for the foreseeable future, Ateek said.
“I was honestly so overjoyed that it brought me to tears,” Haby said. “Sure, I was glad that we were still able to participate in Breakaway online when we couldn’t gather in person, but when so many believers come together to worship the Lord, the Holy Spirit moves in such powerful ways.”
Editor’s note: David Holt is a sportswriter for The Battalion.