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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Echo
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Reflections from a (mostly) former chapel skipper

The benefits of going to chapel

My friend Francis has participated in well over 98,000 chapels.

His intentional community in California (St. Andrews Abbey, Los Angeles) takes discipleship seriously. Francis’ participation in chapel five times a day for over 50 years has made him a different kind of human being — one marked by a beautiful, deep peace and joy (Psalm 92:14).

When he was recently asked about his favorite aspect of community life, he pointed to the daily chapels where his community worships, prays and listens to God’s word together.

This emphasis on the centrality of chapel for communities of disciples is not new.

Some 1,494 years ago, an Italian pastor named Benedict designed a “life together covenant” for his community, including a daily rhythm of work and chapel worship. My friend Francis’ community follows a form of Benedict’s LTC (called The Rule of St. Benedict), as do more than 20,000 others around the world today.

At Taylor University, each member of our community promises one another “freely and willingly” to make corporate worship an essential — not optional — “extra.” In the words of the LTC, “Corporate worship, prayer, fellowship, and instruction are essential for our community. Therefore, students, faculty, and administrators are expected to attend chapel. Faithful participation is understood as a mature response to our community goals.”

My first few years back at Taylor as a faculty member revealed that I was often choosing to make other work a higher priority than our community worship. As I thought about my friend Francis, and the impact his discipleship community has had on the world by choosing to prioritize corporate worship over other kinds of work needing to be done by the community, I was challenged to rethink my priorities.

Guarding our community chapel hours requires the same kind of skills and disciplines as guarding the Sabbath day (or, as the LTC calls it, “the Lord’s Day”). As Josiah Peterson (’19) wrote last spring in this paper, “Start with beginning to think about the chapel hours as Sabbath times.”

In my own life, I have found the excuses I use to skip chapel are often the same I use to skip the Sabbath. Participation in weekly chapel is a gift, like the gift of Sabbath. Often, we convince ourselves we are too busy to receive this gift.

We tell ourselves our work is more important than the work of worshipping with our sisters and brothers. At least I am guilty of this kind of thinking. Now, when I feel the pressure to skip chapel — which, because I am teaching at 11 a.m. this semester, feels like almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday — I ask myself questions like these:

Is whatever I am doing right now more important than the promise I made to our community to prioritize our corporate worship?

Is what I am doing right now more important than gathering for prayer and worship with the community?

If a work “emergency” is why I am skipping chapel, then when was the last time I had one of these “emergencies?” If this is my second or third “emergency” this semester, then what do I need to change to make sure these emergencies do not keep me from chapel next week?

Participation in our community’s chapel sessions is one of God’s greatest gifts to Taylor. I encourage you who are seniors to prioritize the last few chapels of your time at Taylor. I encourage you who are freshman to choose to make participation in chapel a first priority during the next three years. And for faculty and administration, I encourage you to receive the gift of chapel. If accepted, like my friend Francis, you will find yourself becoming a different kind of person. As we finish this semester, may all of us receive and enjoy this good gift.

hank_voss@taylor.edu