It’s a Monday morning and you wake up to the pounding sound of your alarm.
You saunter over to your 8 a.m. class, still half asleep. After what seems like a lifetime, it’s finally 10 a.m.— time for chapel.
After entering the chapel, you find your wingmates; you sit, chat, laugh, worship and listen to God’s word.
“I’m thankful we have a lot of students that don’t really look at the schedule,” Campus Pastor Jon Cavanagh said. “They just make it a part of their routine and they go, and then they know it will be valuable.”
Part of Cavanagh’s job is selecting a theme for each school year and preaching on that theme approximately once per month.
For the 2021-2022 school year, Cavanagh picked out the chapel theme of “Being salt and light.”
This theme comes from the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 when Jesus tells his disciples to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”
While selecting this theme, Cavanagh put a lot of thought and prayer into finding something that would help the Taylor community stay focused.
“It felt important to bring things to the present day, like the ‘being,’ and to help equip students to think about living out their faith right now,” Cavanagh said.
Cavanagh explained how often students succumb to the pressures of the future and what they’re going to do after college. Or maybe, they suffer from procrastination, and are consistently pressing their faith or other things to the side, saying, “I’ll do this later.”
He hopes that the chapels this year promote students to think about their present actions and present faith instead of focusing on the future or procrastinating their relationship with God.
The importance and value of attending chapel spurs not only from a need for God but also from a need for togetherness and collective worship.
“We would say one of the guiding principles of chapels is that it’s collaborative,” Cavanagh said. “So, I think what is really valuable for students that attend chapels together with people in their wing, floors or teams or in their friend group or whatever it happens to be is to then apply it in their lives and discuss it with their friends.”
At Taylor, chapel is not required. As Cavanagh likes to put it, chapel is expected, and that accountability is made through relationships.
When students are connected with or befriend others who care about chapel, then likely, talk about chapel becomes a part of those conversations and relationships.
“I think it affirms a really good thing in a lot of our students that they come to chapel to worship, and to grow and to learn and to be challenged,” Cavanagh said. “Because that’s a priority for them, I think that affects the whole room.”
Cavanagh emphasized the importance of participation in chapel, rather than attendance.
He was grateful for the effort and participation of students in chapel last year, despite everything going on with COVID-19, and hopes that same hunger and desire to learn and grow carries on to this school year.
“One of my favorite parts is when the worship bands are leading and whomever the vocalist is, or whoever’s singing can step away from the microphone during the verse or chorus, and lots of people are singing,” Cavanagh said. “When I talk about the value of participating, that’s a really tangible, specific way to see that people are engaged.”
Whoever happens to be on stage, whether that is a chapel band, pastor, student or staff member, has the opportunity to engage with and create a partnership with whoever is sitting in the seats.
Cavanagh is encouraged by the student body’s engagement and is excited to see and experience what future chapel speakers have in store for Taylor.
He advises students to develop healthy routines that allow for space and time with God, to stick with those routines, and to make the most of them.
“For a lot of students, they’re appreciating the fact that we can come back and maybe appreciate that (chapel) is a place to refocus a little bit in the middle of a busy day or busy week,” Cavanagh said. “To be able to come together three times a week is and has been a really crucial part of the day-to-day life at Taylor.”
The next time you wake up on a Monday morning to the obnoxious sound of your alarm, consider the ways in which chapel influences your life. Consider how you can make chapel a part of your healthy routine and how you can be salt and light as you go about your day.