By Jordan Davidson | Contributor
The first time I heard about Chapel at Baylor, I was excited. Two whole class periods a week dedicated to worshipping, praying and learning more about God seemed like a perfect example of one of the reasons I chose to attend a private, Christian university. Maybe I was a little ignorant or just slightly blinded by my own excitement, but my first Chapel experience did not even come close to meeting my preconceived expectations.
My first time in Chapel was a severe disappointment. As I stood up to leave Waco Hall and swipe the student ID that registered my attendance, I remember feeling slightly betrayed by my campus tour guide, orientation speakers, Line Camp leader and even my academic advisor. Why didn’t anyone tell me what Chapel was really like? Sure, the presenter was well-spoken and incorporated some of the elements of spirituality that I sought into their message, but a majority of their speech was centered on their ideas, opinions and life.
Although I wanted more emphasis on spirituality by Chapel speakers, I concluded that the root of my continued disappointment in Chapel was not caused by the content introduced by the various guest speakers. There is nothing wrong with hearing different peoples’ stories, experiences, viewpoints and opinions. Gaining insight from other points of view on different issues is one of the highlights of a college education. The fact that Baylor has a platform for that kind of programming shows how much our university cares about our education. The presentation of this platform, however, is misleading and can often become misconstrued.
If Chapel continues to be no longer as advertised, Chapel leaders should consider reintroducing or relabeling it as a time to expand one’s knowledge and understanding of the world. Not only do I believe that this would help navigate and address difficult conversations introduced by certain speakers, but I also think it would assist in rebuilding the trust between Chapel leaders and students that may have been damaged by differing expectations.
Everything from the name “Chapel” to the description on Baylor’s official website points to the idea that this mandatory, twice a week, 50-minute class period lasting for two semesters is meant to encourage students to enhance their spiritual journeys. Although the intention for Chapel may still lie in its declared mission to “come together to focus on both the God who made them and the universe in which they live,” the execution of this purpose by the leaders and speakers in Chapel seems to be a hit or miss.
In order to better fulfill Chapel’s stated purpose, Chapel leaders should consider a more consistent usage of worship music, prayer times, scripture readings and other activities and programming that were intentionally created to enhance individual’s spirituality. Even though some people take away certain spiritual or encouraging elements from current Chapel speeches, Chapel programming would benefit from a time that is intended for people to examine their piety.
Another solution is to literally rename and rebrand the Chapel time period. One way Chapel leaders could implement this is to work towards promoting and advertising this mandatory period as a time to expand one’s own knowledge of the world. They could offer the same type of experience that is offered now with a question and answer session for students who want to challenge or elaborate on any of the topics mentioned in that day’s speech.
Junior political science major