By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
The laws of science contend a perpetual motion machine cannot possibly exist because it would eventually lose energy and break down. Apparently, science has never been to Chapel.
Every year, ACU’s Chapel program trudges on, offering students the same routine songs to sing, speakers who could put an insomniac to sleep in seconds and the constant anxiety of trying to earn all 55 required credits. Many students respond by disrespectfully chatting with their friends, playing games on their cell phones or laptops and “sliding-and-gliding,” the act of skipping Chapel after sliding their ID cards to receive credit for attending. It’s a never-ending cycle that needs to stop.
Administrators have tried tirelessly to revamp the program to better appeal to students, but one option they have not attempted is to make Chapel voluntary.
Dropping the daily attendence requirement would open multiple doors for the entire ACU community. Students who genuinely want to worship would be able to do so without the distractions from noisy students, who could benefit by having more time to grab lunch before a noon class, finish their homework or hang out with friends. Administrators would have the chance to take new and more intimate routes for enhancing the students’ spirituality.
Without the constraints of needing to award students with credits, Chapel services could be scheduled to be longer than the usual 30-minute format, which would allow more active participation.
Last week, during a Chapel service in Cullen Auditorium, a clip from Milk, a movie about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, was played in front of a few hundred students. The speakers allowed students to respond to the clip afterwards, but most of the remarks sounded like they came straight from the Westboro Baptist Church’s handbook. It’s fine to think Christians should not follow or even listen to homosexuals who hold public office, but other students should at least have the opportunity to debate such an opinion if they so choose. The current 30-minute format does not accomodate ample opportunities to respond to others’ comments and create a dialogue that would introduce other viewpoints and encourage further exploration of Scripture.
Other schools in Abilene offer chances for spiritual growth while avoiding the feeling that Chapel is a chore.
Hardin-Simmons University requires its students to earn Chapel credits, but instead of meeting every day, students meet once a week and only have to accrue 80 credits at the end of four years rather than gain 55 in one semester.
McMurry University offers voluntary Chapel once a week. Mark Waters, assistant professor of servant leadership and director of the Servant Leadership Center at McMurry, said about 200 students regularly attend, and although that represents less than 10 percent of the student body, the quality of worship is excellent. And in my humble opinion, the quality of time with God is better than the quantity of people in the pews.
To its defense, Chapel provides students with the opportunity to commune and worship God. So, the frequency of Chapel should not be reduced, but the format should be changed to better serve the student body.
If I were in charge of Chapel, the schedule would look a little something like this:
* Monday: Chapel in Moody Coliseum, but the program would promote student announcements and events.
* Tuesday: Small group Chapel services.
* Wednesday: No Chapel today. You’re going to church tonight anyway.
* Thursday: Chapel will consist of small group lunches and dinners to build community over a nice meal.
* Friday: Praise Day Chapel. What better way to end the week by singing Highways and By-ways?
However, I will never have the chance to implement such a plan after I am convicted of heresy for writing this article and subsequently suspended from school.