By now, we’re used to a certain rhythm during chapel.
“Goodmorning, Taylor! My name is (insert cheers here) and today I have the pleasure of introducing our speaker (cheers) from (cheers). They also are a graduate of Taylor (cheers).”
“Back in my time on Third West Wengatz (cheers from the back half of Rediger) (quiet boos follow from the balcony) …”
Taylor’s eagerness to enthusiastically support one another is a treasured staple of our community. Chapel is just one of many environments where we see that.
That said, there are times when these good things begin to become detractors from our engagement with chapel.
On The Echo Editorial Board, we’ve had a mixture of unsavory experiences like this, ranging from TikTok dancers during worship to outbursts during impactful parts of the message. We could blame it on a particular wing or section, but it’s often a symptom of a greater issue at hand: our intentionality.
At Taylor, chapel attendance is expected but not required. Everyone who is there wants to be there … right?
Sure, but not necessarily to grow spiritually. As a board, we’ll take the first step in admitting sometimes we attend chapel for a variety of other reasons.
Sometimes, our hearts might be in the right place, but we are distracted by the things we have to do. Between studying for tests, finishing a last-minute assignment or checking a social media post, our attention can be spent on other things although we want to be present at chapel.
Other times, we’re attending half-heartedly. It’s part of our routine, we know someone leading worship, we walk to our next class with someone from our wing — it’s not hard to consider that our hearts aren’t always in the right places.
Though it seems so routine to us now, it’s a privilege to attend regular faith-based gatherings in an academic setting. More than likely, this opportunity to gather with other Christians three times weekly in the middle of the day will not follow us beyond graduation.
Simply put, we’re prone to take advantage of this immense blessing.
“I see chapel as an asset that we can take advantage of while we are at Taylor,” said May Young, associate professor of biblical studies. “In other words, we get to go to chapel, not we have to go to chapel. There are so many different gifted speakers and opportunities for us to learn about God and to grow in our faith. Where else in the future would we have this type of regular opportunity to engage in such diversity of worship and perspectives?”
Though chapel doesn’t replace church attendance or personal time with God, it's an incredibly unique and valuable opportunity Taylor provides us. When we truly recognize this, we enter that time and space with an entirely different posture.
With our individual preferences and spiritual needs influencing how we engage in this time, it asks the question of how our personal response influences those around us during chapel.
In that spirit, there is so much room for enthusiasm. Senior Rose White, a chapel coordinator, said Taylor’s reception of guests is one of the best parts of her role. Even so, she finds there is room to strike a balance between enthusiasm and reverence.
“What I’ve seen ease the tensions of our speakers most … and make them feel welcome is the energy they receive from our crowd,” White said. “... It should be an exciting event — God made us relational beings! And in that posture of excitement, it’s up to each individual to consider how we respect others as well as extend grace to how people worship and interact with the material during that time.”
Jacob Stonick, discipleship assistant on The Brotherhood, said he and the floor’s other discipleship assistants actively attempt to balance enthusiasm and respect during chapel.
“When we have felt that one of our guys (was) being disruptive we have talked to them about it,” Stonick said. “I know that the guys on our floor that may cross the line every once in a while do not have the intention of doing so.”
We have to evaluate our intentions not only in how we support or celebrate others, though that’s what comes to mind in this season, but in all the ways we might distract ourselves and others — cramming for a test, checking social media, whispering to those around us — whatever it might be.
Chapel is part of a greater picture for the growth and flourishing of our community. Until we recognize that, we will continue to be flippant and self-focused in our actions. We must practice discernment with our intentions.
How do we, as a community, hold ourselves and others to a higher standard while still making chapel invitational for all?
There might not be a perfect answer, but it is a great question to ask ourselves as we participate in something that is unique, important and temporal.