Rediger Chapel can normally seat up to 1,641 people. This semester, it must only seat a maximum of 250 masked and socially distanced chapel attendees.
On Aug. 19 an email announcement informed the Taylor community of a chapel rotation that will ensure all students can experience chapel in a large communal setting while observing COVID-19 safety precautions.
Students, faculty and staff will rotate between Rediger Chapel, Odle Arena and other locations on campus in groups determined by dorm, wing or floor and small groups of students’ choosing. The specific outline for the August rotation was included in the email.
The chapel rotation plan adheres to Stage 4.5 of Indiana’s state guidelines and may change in correspondence with the capacity limits of each future stage. For now, all students are required to wear masks regardless of distance during chapels due to the singing component. This includes musical worship outdoors.
“If Taylor University is known as a culture of thinking ahead and thoughtfully considering others, it makes it a good place,” Campus Pastor Jon Cavanagh said. “I think (abiding by the guidelines) is a very tangible way that a person can live out their faith — not the only way, but a real, simple, regular routine where erring on the side of caution with this feels like a thoughtful approach.”
Cavanagh said he trusts students to use discernment and hold each other accountable when choosing locations for the small group and wing or floor rotations. For the small group rotation, he suggests gatherings of teammates, friends from a variety of dorms or Bible study groups. There is no need to record the amount of students in each small group and the groups can change at any time.
As for wings or floors, the chapel experience may vary on these rotation days since Personnel Assistants (PAs) and Discipleship Assistants (DAs) will choose the location. Junior Chloe Schaufelberger, a Third East Olson PA, said she expects many wings and floors will try to reserve spaces such as Cornwall or large classrooms to livestream chapels and accommodate larger groups.
Schaufelberger plans to encourage her wingmates to attend chapel in community no matter where their rotation falls.
“Chapel has been probably my favorite part of the week these past two years,” Schaufelberger said. “I know it's different (this semester), but I think that emphasizing the importance of being with a crowd of other believers who are worshipping at the same time is so important, and I think it's just such a nice break in your day just to get a little bit of peace — especially right now with the craziness.”
Chapel coordinator and chapel band leader senior Rebekah Carp expects this semester to be a season of experimentation, learning and readjusting when planning how best to incorporate musicians and speakers into chapel.
Since stepping into the role of chapel coordinator, Carp has seen the hours of behind-the-scenes work that go into each chapel and is grateful for the students and staff who make it possible. She hopes students will be gracious with the chapel program as they plan and re-plan what the rest of the semester will look like.
She also encourages other students to be optimistic about worshipping together this semester even without the familiarity of chapel routines from past years.
“Just be open to God and what he wants to do,” Carp said. “Even with all these challenges and differences, I think it's going to be a great year. I think God is still going to move and still going to do great things through the chapel program and through chapel bands.”
Carp emphasized that the protocols for chapel and worship bands will likely change as new information emerges.
Ultimately, Cavanagh said he hopes students will check in on one another throughout the semester and continually invite each other into meaningful chapel experiences.
“I think the sooner that we as a campus community can move away from discussions about masks and how close to stand to each other and we have an established norm that people are willing to abide by, the sooner we can start talking about stuff that's important for different reasons,” Cavanagh said. “There are a lot of things going on in students’ lives (and) there are a lot of things going on in the world that are really valuable for us to engage in and think through together.”
Cavanagh also said that students who wish to continue viewing chapel over livestream are welcome to do so. The chapel livestream can be accessed at https://my.taylor.edu/chapel.