As students come back to AU’s campus and Christian universities begin to experience their first couple weeks together, it’s evident that spiritual life looks very different. Just like classes and most other events, chapel has switched to a more virtual-driven format.
AU has transitioned to a completely virtual format, while also addressing that chapel will no longer be mandatory for students due to the inability to fit everyone in one place safely according to CDC guidelines.
The first couple weeks of chapel have been an introduction to the chapel theme for the semester—“Transformation at the Speed of Light” on Tuesday’s and AU’s “Black Lives Matter” series on Thursday’s.
All of the chapels have been held via a Zoom webinar. Students, faculty and staff involved in the execution of all aspects of chapel are assigned as panelists on the Zoom so they can be seen and heard, while other students are regular attendees who just listen. Students are also allowed to participate by commenting in a discussion board accompanying the webinar.
Chapel worship is seeing a lot of change as well. AU’s singing policy and government guidelines include restrictions that make it difficult for groups of musicians to perform together indoors in a safe manner. Because of that, most chapel worship will be done virtually or outdoors.
Chapel worship will be partnering with various arts on campus, specifically the Vision Revision program, which consists of chapel centered around the arts. Dance, painting, music, spoken word, and other arts will be involved in creating some outdoor worship experiences this semester.
Other Christian universities in the area are taking similar routes of continuing spiritual life for their students, but they are approaching chapel differently.
Indiana Wesleyan University, a private Christan university in Marion, Indiana, is requiring chapel attendance this semester, unlike AU.
IWU’s website reads: “Campus-wide worship is an important, identity-forming value for our community that will carry on in the midst of COVID-19 in the form of a streaming chapel service every Wednesday at 10:05 a.m. Alongside campus-wide worship, we will also have a variety of experiences that students can participate in (and accrue chapel credits) such as faculty and staff-led faith integration groups, small groups, small worship gatherings and monthly come-and-go communion.”
Taylor University, a private Christian university in Upland, Indiana, is taking a unique approach to keeping chapel in-person by dividing the student body into small groups and hosting chapel in various places on campus. Chapel is also being live-streamed weekly.
“Unfortunately, we are still in Phase 4.5. Thus, our indoor gatherings are limited to 250 people with social distancing and masks. As such we will be dividing the student body into six groups for chapel attendance. We hope to be able to adjust this as the semester progresses,” TU reported on their website.
TU has never required chapel for students, so the mandatory attendance requirement did not change when the execution did.
Grace College, a Christan college in Winona Lake, Indiana, is taking a similar approach to TU by holding in-person chapel, but splitting the student body into groups. Chapel worship will also be the same with a socially-distanced live band. Chapel attendance will still be required with just a slight adjustment.
“We are in the process of revising the chapel requirement from a ‘absence-based’ to a ‘presence-based’ system. Instead of being given a certain number of chapel skips each session or semester, you’ll be required to attend a certain number of chapels. We are also instituting an app based attendance platform for students to record their attendance,” GC reported on their website.