This year in Chapel, we have decided to take a slightly different tack in worship than we have in years past. To begin with, we are starting each hour of worship with lunch. In the past, lunch was offered at the end of the hour, but people were very rushed to eat and get out before their noon classes started. In starting with lunch, we can let people enjoy their food and fellowship, have announcement time, and start worship in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Another change that we’re adopting is that we have a very simplified format for worship. At our spring and summer staff retreats, the Religious Life staff identified three “core values” for our worship together: Quality Music, Communal Prayer, and Relevant Messages.
Music speaks to the current generation of young people in ways that are different from previous generations. This is not to say that music hasn’t ever spoken to young people, but the current generation seems to put an especially high premium on music that “speaks.” As technology consultant Derek Baird wrote on his blog in 2008, for Gen Y, “music is oxygen.” (http://tinyurl.com/62lj6w) Many students that I have spoken to have indicated that they prefer music that lets them reflect on life, their relationship with God, and their many (and sometimes complicated) human relationships. So, we’ve decided that we want to produce quality music that will “speak,” while maintaining integrity within the service (i.e., the music will go with the theme of the service, and we will not just repeat a song week after week because it happens to be popular). We have revived the concept of a “chapel band,” which will provide consistent musical leadership, and we have incorporated times for congregational singing and for reflection times that have music as a key component.
Students have shared with us that they value the opportunity to pray together for one another’s joys and concerns, but that it can be difficult to share those prayer requests in a traditional “raise your hand and tell it out loud” kind of format. So, we’ve decided to have as many ways to share prayer requests as possible. In the chapel building, you’ll now see a bulletin board that is dedicated to prayer requests. We also have “prayer pots”—flower pots that sit on the tables at lunch—which give people the opportunity to turn in prayer requests at worship. Also planned this year are opportunities to “tweet in” prayer request via a Twitter feed, and e-mail prayer requests. All of these opportunities will hopefully give people the chance to have their requests heard and prayed over by the community.
By “relevant,” we’re not suggesting that messages in chapel worship should have nothing to do with eternal truths and everything to do with what’s hip, popular, and current. On the contrary, we envision worship messages that are biblically-based, but which apply the often-difficult to grasp messages of the Bible to the context of a modern American university. By relevance, we also mean that messages will be consistent throughout a single worship service (meaning that there should be unity among scriptures, preaching, music and prayer), and throughout a defined series (three to four weeks that cover roughly the same theme, but utilizing a different preaching text each week). Finally, relevance means that the messages we hope to convey in chapel this year will help participants go deep into the Christian faith, and drink from the wells of our tradition and scriptures in a way that will help them to grow in their personal faith. We wish to counteract the popular notion that worship should be “a mile wide and an inch deep” by focusing our efforts on conveying messages that will have an impact on the ways we think and live.
So there you have it, a manifesto, if you will, on why we’ve chosen to worship the way we do. By emphasizing quality music, communal prayer, and relevant messages, we hope to be able to better define the “brand” that is chapel worship at ONU. If you haven’t already, give us a try on Thursdays at 11 a.m.!
God’s Peace to you,