COVID-19 pushes University Chapel to take online format

Chapel is now online due to COVID-19. Ava Sanborn | Photographer

By Trisha Porzycki | Reporter

With Waco Hall being used as a broad academic space this semester, Chapel cannot meet there, requiring it to move to an online format.

Due to COVID-19 and the sheer number of students that enroll each semester, Chapel is being offered asynchronously online. Each week, students are required to watch videos created by Baylor’s Office of Spiritual Life, followed by a short quiz to earn credit for that week. Students can watch and complete their quiz at any point of the day.

University Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual Life and Missions Burt Burleson said this year’s services will be different than ever before.

“It’s not like watching a worship service, and it’s not like there is a camera at the back of Waco Hall … it’s artistically done this year,” Burleson said.

Students will be presented with a Chapel experience following a specific theme of the week, shown in 15- to 20-minute videos on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Content includes students reading scripture, faculty interviews, reflections of the religious courses offered on campus, etc.

“We are trying to connect with the Christian Scriptures course … so most of them will have echoes of that class while they are in Chapel, which is why we are starting in Genesis 1,” Burleson said.

Baylor requires that all undergraduate students take two semesters of Chapel to graduate. Students typically complete these two semesters during their freshman year but can complete them throughout any semesters of their four years.

Before the pandemic, over 500 students gathered during multiple sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays in Waco Hall, swiping their Bear ID at the end for attendance.

“Chapel has always struggled to try to connect with the next reality and generation that is here. It would not surprise me if people say let’s keep this online format … it would not surprise me at all,” Burleson said. “We are getting lots of participation from parents and alumni because it’s out there where they can get ahold of it really easily. We are getting good comments, and it would not surprise me if this was our vehicle for a number of semesters.”

Los Alamitos, Calif., sophomore Lexi Luyben took Chapel during the first semester of her freshman year and decided to take her second required semester during the fall 2020 semester.

“It’s really cool. It allows me to watch it whenever it fits into my schedule because it is asynchronous. I think it is beneficial to be able to pay attention on my own time and be able to hear the message, and I have found that to be much more beneficial, really take it what’s being told to me,” Luyben said.

During Baylor’s first decade, most of the student body and community would experience Chapel together. But as the enrollment rate increased and the introduction of the 1945 GI Bill, there was no space on campus large enough to fit all those who wished to attend.

With the convenience of online videos and social media platforms, The Office of Spiritual Life opens their doors to everyone in the Baylor family. Parents, alumni, and friends of the community are invited to experience Chapel alongside students.