From the moment I first came to JBU I didn’t much care for chapel. It was so loud, and I could hear the vibration of noise even from where I stood in the back. Maybe it was the music itself that bothered me. While I’ve tried many churches in my day, I’ve never found one that makes me feel as at home as Grace Reformed in Rogers does. The congregation, which I’ve been a part of for three and a half years, is like family instead of the unfamiliar masses of the school. The hymns, though unfamiliar, have more meaning to me than “Yes, God. Yes, God. Yes, God, yes.”
That’s what I hoped to hear when I came to JBU. There were hymn books tucked behind the pews then. Parents and students were promised hymns would be sung. Such hymns never came. Even now, as a junior, I listen carefully for the familiar sound of hymns each chapel. I wait for them to tell us to bring out our hymn books and sing together. We never do.
For the most part, there’s only contemporary Christian music. It’s the kind of music you’d find on any Christian radio station. Occasionally, people specially choose to sing hymns, but those are for special occasions. I can’t help but want more. I want to hear familiar praises instead of the contemporary tunes. I want to enjoy chapel more because, after all, it is mandatory.
Of course, I’m not saying we should sing hymns every chapel. That would be alienating those who struggle to worship that way. However, from the way things are now, chapel can be a bit alienating to people like me—people who are much more accustomed to listening to hymns. By giving a variety of music during chapel services, students may choose to attend more of the ones that match their faith and preferences to worship. Chapel can become a comfortable place to learn more about the faith.
Please don’t get me wrong though. This is much more than a “build your own chapel” idea. It’s a matter of faith itself. For some Christians, any worship is fine, and, when they’re happiest, they can best praise the Lord. Others come from denominations where the only proper form of worship is hymns. The strictest only want hymns based on Psalms. To them, it’s not just a matter of asking a question like “Does this music get my feet tapping or not?” Instead, it’s a matter of asking, “Are they being Biblically sound? Are they worshipping correctly?”
If there is such a difference in the way denominations believe we ought to worship, then as one of the most well known Christian schools, John Brown University should be willing to bring diversity into the music we sing in chapel. It may be a bit of an annoyance to turn down the energy and having to learn unfamiliar, “boring” hymns, but it could make all the difference to someone who wants to worship the way they feel is proper.
So I say, bring in the hymnals. Slow things down. Give JBU students a chance to worship in a way that they believe is Biblically sound. Give us hymns.
Johnson is a junior majoring in communication. She an be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.