The chimes that begin each chapel service are a familiar sound for John Brown University students.
Full-time students must attend at least 21 chapel services each semester, stated the student handbook. While there are other opportunities like Sunday night’s gathering or the bi-weekly vespers service, 15 out of 21 credits must be through the traditional Tuesday and Thursday morning services.
After today, 10 traditional chapel opportunities remain for the fall semester.
Student opinions on chapel are as diverse as the student body itself. Sophomore Kayley Phillips sees chapel in a positive light.
“I really like it when I go,” Phillips said. “Sometimes I second guess going because I get so busy with schoolwork. But every time I go, I feel good afterwards.”
For Phillips, the inconvenience of the 45-minute service is outweighed by the benefits.
“I really like it when the talk relates with something in my classes that I’m learning about,” she said. “I find that happens a lot.”
Chapel services are less beneficial for freshman Shannon Griggs, who struggles with a lack of excitement in the services.
“Sometimes the chapels can be dead and boring,” she said. “But it’s a good time to get homework done.” Despite the inconvenience of chapel attendance, Griggs still managed to scan in for her required 21 services this semester.
“More than half of Christian universities require chapel,” University chaplain Rod Reed said.
Required chapels range from 12 to 72 per semester, depending on the institution. Reed said that the University has tried to find a spot in the middle of the issue.
“You require what you value,” Reed said. “We value writing well, so we require English classes. We value a broad base of knowledge, so we require science and political science.”
Reed sees chapel as an integral part of the community and believes that it provides a common experience for everyone at the University.
“Chapel is the only time during the week … where the whole community can get together for a common purpose,” he said. “The only other time that comes close is the cafeteria.”
For students who struggle with the mandatory chapel policy, Reed emphasizes that chapel is just as important as core classes.
“We try to help students realize that this is a requirement just like biology is a requirement,” he said.
Even though University leadership requires chapel attendance, certain exceptions are allowed based on hardship. Students are allowed to apply for chapel exemption, and each application is reviewed individually by University staff.
“We try to say chapel is important, it’s required of all students, but we work with students who struggle with that in certain ways,” Reed said. “There is an exemption process where students can apply if their schedule doesn’t allow it for one semester.”
Just over 10 percent of full-time undergraduate students did not make the required number of chapels during the Spring 2013 semester.
The student handbook stated that students who lack six or less chapels are required to add the number missed to the next semester. If a student misses seven or more chapels or falls below the minimum for two semesters in a row, they are labeled as “on contract” and are unable to participate in leadership positions, the honors program, or other school-sponsored events.