Chapel requirement: help or hindrance? Forced assembly curtails worship

Now is the time of the year when, as a college student, I am frequently asked, “is everything piling up yet?”

The “everything” is schoolwork, a social life and sleep. For me, the closer I get to midterms, the more it seems that tests, quizzes and papers are all deciding to take place at the same time during my school week.

So with the hurdles of schoolwork in mind, twice a week I walk to chapel to meet my required attendance and listen to the wise words of Rod Reed and guest speakers. However, more often than not, my schoolwork tags along with me.

In a quiet corner of the upper balcony I tackle the extra chapters from western civ that I couldn’t handle the night before. Around me, fellow students’ faces are illuminated with laptop, phone and iPad screens.

Everyone has his or her reasons for chapel. I love the atmosphere of worshippers, the chance to reflect…and yes: the extra 45 minutes before class to do homework aren’t that bad either. However, one thing we all have in common as fulltime students at JBU is the 21 chapel per-semester requirement.

The reasoning behind the required attendance fits within JBU’s mission to “provide a Christ-centered higher education to their students.” The nobility and good intentions behind this mission are beyond question. That being said, for followers of Christ, worship is a personal and very organic thing. When restrictions and requirements are put on such an intimate experience, I have to wonder if they stand the chance of robbing from the intimacy.

What would a John Brown campus look like without required chapel attendance? I can assure you that vagabonds would not be doing donuts on the quad in post-apocalyptic dune buggies. J. Alvin would not secede from the school and devolve into some sort of Thunderdome existence where jungle law rules. (If the latter were to happen it wouldn’t be related to the chapel situation.)

What you would see if the required chapel rule was amended is a chapel service full of students who are there to worship their God corporately with their classmates and friends—without the addition of students who are there to swipe their cards and do homework.

As I said before, depending on my workload for the week, I can be either student. I have had deep and emotional moments in chapel. I’ve also crammed for tests and prayed to Jesus for a passing grade during the altar call.

If my necessary studying and heartfelt cries to Jesus over grades were to distract a fellow worshipper for even a second, I would be mortified. However, the fact is that sometimes we need those 45 minutes before class to study, but we also need to attend 21 chapels.

Nobody would study for midterms at a movie theater. The crinkling papers and bright phone and laptop screens would be distracting to those around them. However, no students are required to go see movies for 45 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday. If that requirement were in place, eventually people would start using that time to study as well.

We all worship God in our own way. If putting parameters around a specific time and location were to dampen the experience, would it be worth it?