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Students challenge chapel requirements

Seniors graduating in May need to meet chapel requirements by April 24, according to John Brown University’s 2015-16 Student Handbook.

Chapel attendance is mandatory for all studentsas it is an essential part of fulfilling John Brown University’s mission of providing Christ-centered higher education, according to the handbook.

Students who fall below minimum attendance by six or fewer chapels must make up the number of chapels missed the following semester in addition to meeting the regular attendance requirement. Students who fall below minimum attendance for a second semester or are seven or more chapels short in any given semester may also lose the opportunity to hold leadership positions or participate in special programs, according to the Handbook.

Tracy Balzer, director of Christian formation, explained the necessity of chapel.

“Because we are committed to ‘whole person’ education, we believe that spiritual education and formation is not only as important as intellectual development and physical development, but that it should be fully integrated into all aspects of one’s life,” Balzer said.

Heather Brewer, sophomore communication major, said that required chapel attendance has its disadvantages and does not agree that students should be penalized for not meeting requirements.

“Requiring someone to go to church takes away their opportunity to choose to go,” Brewer said. “If people could choose to go to chapel they would. There are strings attached to chapel. The fact that you can get in trouble for not going to chapel bothers me.”

Amanda Cox, senior philosophy major, agreed and added, “chapel penalties are harsh and unnecessary.”

“I think if chapel was more diverse and engaging lots of people would want to go anyway, and you wouldn’t have to require it. Sure, lots of people would never go, but that’s their decision and I think college students are mature enough to make that decision for themselves,” Cox said.

As an athlete at the University, Josh Bowling, senior biochemistry major, juggles studying, practicing and traveling.

Even with his busy schedule, he is required to go to chapel just like everyone else. However, he said that he came here knowing the requirements.

“We did come to this school knowing that there are requirements and we did come knowing we have to go to chapel. If you’re not going to meet the requirements, there’s going to be some sort of penalty,” he said.

Zoë Shafer, junior biblical and theological studies major, said that she is thankful for mandatory chapel. “When you come here you come realizing that it’s not just an education experience it’s also a spiritual experience. If it wasn’t required, I’d be more tempted to skip more often.”

Emily Pearce, junior intercultural studies major, said that even though it can be difficult going to chapel every week, it should be mandatory because it fosters community at the University.

However, she said that she understands why some people may not like it. “It can be hard though whenever chapel seems like a chore,” she said. “[Students] would prefer not just to sit in the balcony and be on their computers. They want to do the right thing by being respectful but they have to get credits because if not, they will get chapel probation.”

Brewer agreed that because chapel is required, people don’t give chapel time the respect it deserves. “Because it’s required people don’t take it as seriously,” Brewer said. “Doing homework in chapel is disrespectful. By making chapel required people feel like they use chapel as a homework time. I would never go to church Sunday morning and bring my laptop and pull up a paper.”

Balzer said that the chapel expectation is very doable and that there are plenty of ways to meet the requirements during the semester. She added that chapel services encourage students, Christian or otherwise, to seriously consider faith in Christ. “JBU has never been a campus exclusively for Christians, but we will never apologize for our Christian identity and mission.”