Student Perspective

Chapel: A Unique and Integral Experience at ELI 360 Partner Universities.

by Benjamin Skye | June 11, 2010 | Student Perspective 0 Comments

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A nighttime view of the stain glass window at Hardin-Simmons' University's Logsdon Chapel - used for the seminary students' chapel assemblies.

A nighttime view of the stain glass window at Hardin-Simmons' University's Logsdon Chapel - used for the seminary students' chapel assemblies.

Pronunciation: \ˈcha-pəl\ Function: noun Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French chapele, from Medieval Latin cappella,from diminutive of Late Latin cappa cloak; from the cloak of St. Martin of Tours preserved as a sacred relic in a chapel built for that purpose Date: 13th century 1 : a subordinate or private place of worship: as a : a place of worship serving a residence or institution b : a small house of worship usually associated with a main church c : a room or recess in a church for meditation and prayer or small religious services 2 : a place of worship used by a Christian group other than an established church <a nonconformist chapel> 3 : a choir of singers belonging to a chapel 4 : a chapel service or assembly at a school or college

A view of the stain glass window at Abilene Christian University's Chapel on the Hill.

A view of the stain glass window at Abilene Christian University's Chapel on the Hill.

Brief History The word “chapel” comes from the Anglo-French word “chapele” or “capele” derived from the Late Latin “cappa” meaning “cloak”. Tradition has it that the word “chapel” became a common term used to describe a place for Christian or Catholic worship after one such building was constructed as a place the preserve the sacred relic of St. Martin of Tours. As the story goes, St. Martin, before he become a priest, served as a soldier in the Roman army. One fateful day, while being stationed at Amiens, St. Martin encountered a scantily clad beggar. Upon seeing this beggar’s plight, St. Martin impulsively pulled off his own cloak and with his sword split it in half in order to share it with the beggar.  That night St. Martin had a dream that he was visited by Jesus himself, whom he saw, was wearing the very half-cloak that he had given to the beggar earlier that day. In this dream, St. Martin heard Jesus saying to the angels, “”Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized he has clad me.” This dream confirmed St. Martin’s piety and he was baptized soon after. One version of the story adds that when St. Martin awoke from his dream he found that his cloak was restored. The miraculous cloak was then preserved among the sacred relic collection of the Merovingian kings of the Franks.

Students engaging in worship during a chapel service at Spring Arbor University, Michigan.

Students engaging in worship during a chapel service at Spring Arbor University, Michigan.

What is Chapel? Since ELI 360’s universities are Christ-centered institutions of higher learning, it is not difficult to locate a building or structure located on these campuses that is designated as the institutions “chapel”. Obviously, the term chapel can be used to describe a physical house of worship. Nonetheless, one of the definitions of the word “chapel” provided by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is “a chapel service of assembly at a school or college.” Indeed, the term chapel is commonly used by students and faculty alike at the various ELI 360 partner universities to refer to a official assemblies where spiritual formation is the focus.

A student bowing in prayer at HSU's REVAMP - a student-led worship festival held annually. Spiritual Formation is an essential focus of all ELI 360 partner universities.

A student bowing in prayer at HSU's REVAMP - a student-led worship festival held annually. Spiritual Formation is an essential focus of all ELI 360 partner universities.

The Purpose of Chapel As with most things university-related, different institutions organize chapel differently. Some, such as Abilene Christian University, have chapel services daily available to students while others, such as Hardin-Simmons University make it a weekly affair. For the most part, chapel is seen as an integral part of the campus life at these universities. One of the most important elements that ELI 360 looks for in its partner universities is a focus on holistic education, which carries with it a need to provide students with an avenue for spiritual growth on top of academic and professional development. In general, the chapel services held at these universities function to help the university family – students, faculty and staff – engage in an environment of corporate worship in order to encourage each individual in their commitment to God and to grow in their love for and knowledge of him. Diversity in Worship Beyond this main goal, various universities’ chapel services, under the leadership of the university chaplain, have unique focuses that supplement the wider objective of worship. For example, Kelly Pigott, the chaplain of Hardin-Simmons University, believes that chapel is a time and a place for exposing the students of HSU to the various Christian heritages. He writes in the excerpt describing chapel on the HSU website, “HSU desires to be a place where students mature spiritually and emotionally. To that end, we seek to provide a relevant and challenging chapel program. Each semester, one can expect to hear from local speakers who speak from a West Texas context, as well as nationally known speakers who challenge us with what is going on in the Church around the world. One can also expect a great diversity of worship styles presented in chapel, to expose the community to the beauty and creativity of all the major Christian traditions.” In other words, chapel at Hardin-Simmons thus becomes a context for students to realize that they are a part of a wider Christian community, whilst learning to accept and embrace the diversity that comes along with that body.

A picture of a weekly chapel service at Lubbock Christian University.

A picture of a weekly chapel service at Lubbock Christian University.

Meanwhile other universities, such as Abilene Christian University, Oklahoma Christian University and LeTourneau University have a distinct focus on engaging their students in the different worship styles of various cultures. On these campuses, one can usually find several assemblies per semester assigned as “International Chapel”.  During the international chapel, faculty and students from different countries and ethnic backgrounds are given the opportunity to lead worship and speak about the gospel, presenting the beauty of God through their unique languages, instruments and other cultural practices. It is through these chapel services that students from diverse backgrounds get a taste of what it means to belong to a wider body of Christ and that even though people can be so different from one another, Christ and their faith in Him becomes a unifying factor for corporate worship.

Internationally-acclaimed Christian author Max Lucado, who happens to be an alumnus of Abilene Christian University, is but one of the many popular guest speakers at ELI 360's partner universities.

Internationally-acclaimed Christian author Max Lucado, who happens to be an alumnus of Abilene Christian University, is but one of the many popular guest speakers at ELI 360's partner universities.

Special Events On top of having weekly meetings and student –led worship, the chaplains of these Christian colleges also organize special events throughout the semester – this includes inviting influential political and spiritual leaders, contemporary bands and music groups and so on to speak or present their music at chapel. Some of the more well-known individuals who have made addresses at these various campuses during chapel time include George W. Bush, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren, Max Lucado, James Dobson, Henry Blackaby and Dan Sanders, just to name a few. Some of the contemporary Christian bands that have played at these institutions’ chapel services include Skillet, Decyfer Down, Sanctus Real, Family Force 5 and the Robbie Seay Band.

An aerial shot of the Sanctus Real worship concert at Spring Arbor University.

An aerial shot of the Sanctus Real worship concert at Spring Arbor University.

Approaching Chapel As with most things in life, what a student might receive from a chapel service greatly depends on how much he or she is willing to put in to it. Personally, I have learned that chapel may not always be what I want or expect it to be. However, if I choose to consciously approach the service with an attitude of humility and reverence, knowing full well that it is not about me but the worship of our one true God, I can trust that He is indeed faithful in meeting with me. It is amazing what difference the element of attitude can make. Chapel services at all our partner universities have the potential to be life-changing if students willingly approach each meeting with attentive ears and open hearts. References: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=chapel&searchmode=none http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/chapel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_of_Tours http://www.wordnik.com/words/chapel/etymologies http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chapel

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