by Jessica Stanton
This fall heralds a new semester, new students, and new changes, especially for returning students who have spent the last year, and then some, routinely attending chapel hour two days a week and scrambling to meet the requirements at the semester’s end.
The change in chapel credit and the chapel hour has been a subject George Fox University has been discussing for about three years now according to Brad Lau, vice president of Student Life and the Spiritual Life Department, Kayin Griffith, director of Chapel Programming, and Jamie Johnson, associate pastor of Christian Leadership.
When the administration approached the Spiritual Life Department last spring, confirming that a change must happen, this was the model proposed: two chapel opportunities on the same day, a lower number of credits required, and an elective component.
“We were given the creativity of implementing a common worship experience for students,” said Griffith.
The challenge was also presented in that the mega church model was not exactly fitting to the culture of George Fox. The number of students reflects the “mega church” congregational model, but an atmosphere of intimacy and a personal relationship with Jesus was a greater focus when approaching the change for chapel hour.
The logistical reasoning behind the change was to align with the university’s growing population in its classrooms. The past chapel design, with a one-hour time block twice a week, eliminated 60 classroom spots, and had there not been a change in the chapel hour, there would have been no accommodations for the large incoming class of 2017.
Since the fall semester has begun, there have been a few myths about the new chapel credits that should be dispelled. Students who have 93 credits, are 23 years old, or are in their fourth year at the beginning of the semester are exempt from required chapel credit. Commuters can explain their situation and apply for a waiver of some or all of the required credits, which may or may not be granted.
The new credit requirements give room for students, with a faculty member, to have a small group or creative project that meets the requirements found on the website.
“The reason for a faculty member to be involved is to have a source of accountability in case there are any issues,” said Johnson.
The layout for the current chapel model was formulated though the Spiritual Life Advisory Committee. This committee was composed of faculty, the Spiritual Life administration, and the Associated Student Community Campus Ministries Director.
Several surveys went out to reach a consensus of the students’ opinions. There was also the measure of informal dialogue to make sure that voices were not being heard only in a vacuum.
For both the administration and faculty, their hopes are to grow with the change and create a stronger sense of intimate gatherings for students who know they can trust that space.
The morning chapel hour will be simple, with minimal décor and a topical speaker. The evening chapel hour will have a time of ministry and an open-ended gathering time with food adhering to the Synapse theme of the year.
There is also the encouragement of Lyfe Groups across the campus: smaller numbers of people gathering to have a common experience of fellowship and worship.
“One thing is not going to be all things to all people,” states Lau, who understands that the chapel component is a core value of George Fox that must be upheld, yet desires to reach a broader range of students at their level of worship comfort.
In another change to the Spiritual Life opportunities on campus, Greenroom is now on Sunday evenings at the Fire Pit until further notice. Shalom is on Thursday evenings in the Cap and Gown Room, and students can expect their peers to speak during that time. Shalom and Greenroom are overseen by Grayce Beebe.
Both Griffith and Lau are open to receiving feedback about the new implementation of chapel hour and credits. The logistics of chapel and an extensive Q and A section can be found at http://www.georgefox.edu/offices/spirituallife/chapel/changes-faq.html.