As the semester comes to a close, Chapel leaders Ryan Richardson and Burt Burleson took the opportunity to reflect on students’ time at Baylor thus far at this year’s last Chapel on Wednesday. Students in the audience were asked to move to the front section of the auditorium and engage in conversation with the two, answering questions about faith, their classes and their overall experience at a Christian university.
The team began by noting that they had led 56 unique services over the course of this year and 168 in total across the three Chapel times offered. Burleson laughed when the audience clapped at this being their last Chapel.
“I’m about ready for Chapel to be over too.” Burleson said.
The first question was posed as a scenario to students traveling home over the summer. Richardson asked what students would say to friends who wondered what it was like to go to a Christian university. It took several minutes for anyone to respond, but a freshman named Jamie eventually stood to answer.
“I would emphasize that there are communities within the community,” Jamie said. “It’s a big school, but I’ve found a community within my department, my dorm, my major.”
Another student said he was from China and came to the United States four years ago. He said he could immediately tell a difference in the friends he made at Baylor and the friends he had back home.
“My roommates here are all really faithful,” he said. “It’s nice for me that they are so positive. I can tell they have hope.”
The second question was centered on Baylor’s required religion courses, as well as other prerequisite courses. Burleson asked if students could see a faith aspect in their non-religious classes. The students who answered had differing opinions: Some said they had enjoyed teachers who had prayed before tests or influenced their faith in class, while others said they never felt pushed towards something they didn’t believe.
“Coming to Baylor from Georgia, I was genuinely scared that religion would be shoved down my throat,” one sophomore student said. “But after my freshman year, I realized that I never felt forced to believe something I didn’t feel.”
“What we have to remember is that it’s not always the Baylor experience, but the Baylor experiences,” Burleson said.
Jessica, a freshman from Fort Worth, said she found it refreshing that Baylor’s claim to faith was a thing she actively felt on campus.
“I had seen the way TCU did things, and I figured a big-name Christian school wouldn’t actually be Christian,” Jessica said. “But this really is a very positive, faithful and accepting place.”
One science major noted that she was relieved when her professors talked about religion, while a second science major disagreed, saying his experience had been that professors never talked about their faith in class.
One student, who had moved to America two years ago from Syria, said he found Baylor’s culture especially inviting and accepting. He said that although he is not a Christian, he has had positive experiences with the Christians at Baylor.
“I know the Muslim community loved when Baylor hosted that event recently,” he said, referencing a vigil held to honor Baylor Muslims after presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would bar Muslims from entering the country. “The people at Baylor understand that in the end, we are more similar than we are different.”
Richardson closed with a note about the Baptist culture being particularly welcoming to other denominations and religions.
“For me to be able to practice my own faith in an open way, I have to be willing to let those around me practice their’s openly,” Richardson said.