John Brown University’s “Christ over all” motto serves as a reminder to “guide students to be the people God has created them to be.”
Vespers and Selah are two opportunities made available by and for the University’s community to worship and seek God outside of the 21 per semester mandatory chapel services.
Selah is a new way to preserve the cathedral as a place of silence on campus. It was inspired by the German studies 2015 summer trip led by Cary Balzer, associate professor of Biblical Studies, and Tracy Balzer, director of Christian Formation and assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Tracy Balzer spoke of her experience in Germany and gave perspective on the cathedrals she witnessed that set aside up to an hour each day for people to come in to be silent and pray. The services were a simple way to make the cathedrals available to the public, she explained, as is the intent for Selah.
“The cathedral is open from noon to 12:30 p.m. for the purpose of prayer and silence,” Balzer said. “Occasionally there might be scripture reading or music but mostly just silence.”
So far, Selah has only been held a few times, and will be announced at chapels and posted in the Here & Now e-mail newsletters as a reminder in the future. Selah is not available for chapel credit but strictly preserves the cathedral for half an hour as an opportunity for stillness on campus. Vespers, however, has built six years of reputation.
“It is much more of a liturgical service,” Balzer said.
Vespers is a 45-minute service held in the Jones Recital Hall of the cathedral certain Tuesdays at 9:00 pm. It includes silence, scripture, corporate prayer, song and more silence. “There is no sermon- just scripture,” Balzer said.
Rebekah Lindstrom, senior worship arts major, is Mrs. Balzer’s assistant for Vespers.
Besides helping chapel leaders choose appropriate hymns that coincide with the scripture readings, “The biggest thing is finding people for the Old and New Testament readings,” Lindstrom said.
Her reasoning? “It is the word of God.”
In Balzer’s attempt to involve students as much as possible, the reverent approach taken by her assistant, Lindstrom, is appropriate.
Being involved in Vespers is a “practical way of getting comfortable with getting in front of people and reading scripture,” Lindstrom said, “and it’s different than public speaking because it’s not your own words.”
In a worship arts class, she learned “the importance of speaking clearly and not letting yourself get in the way of scripture,” Lindstrom said. Therefore, she emphasized the value of capable and willing people who have a good voice for reading the Bible passages each service.