At ten A.M. on Monday, 572 faculty, staff, students, and community members sat in Chester K. Lehman Auditorium to listen to Shane Claiborne’s message about how the parable of the good Samaritan relates to the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.. I thoroughly enjoyed what Shane shared and equally appreciated the number of people that attended the Monday morning event.
However, regular Wednesday and Friday chapel attendance rarely, if ever, reaches that attendance. I challenge the student body to equal the number of people sitting in Monday’s chapel on a regular Wednesday and Friday chapel. While this challenge might not be realized this week or this month, I implore EMU students to make chapel attendance a goal in order to become a more cohesive community.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” If we see the EMU campus community as a family, Desmond Tutu’s wise words speak directly into this predicament.
In the light of chapel, many of us do not choose who speaks at 10 A.M. on Wednesday & Friday, but we attend anyway, treating these speakers as family. Even if I do not agree with the speaker’s views or the worship style, I believe participating in differing styles and listening to various perspectives is healthy for more diverse conversation. This practice welcomes us into the campus community that shapes campus culture.
Unfortunately, many campus community members do not participate currently. The average chapel attendance for last fall was 230. In other words, assuming that all chapel attenders are students, which they are not, only 25.4% of the student body attended chapel last fall.
Halfway through last fall semester, a chapel only had less than 200 students. The planners and speakers had invested time in the chapel service. One professor commented how disappointed they were at the minimal attendance; I walked onto the red brick patio of Lehman Auditorium disgruntled by the lack of community involvement from at least three-fourths of undergraduate students. Why do students decide not to attend chapel?
Some students schedule other activities during chapel. Some need to eat breakfast after their nine A.M. class or before the 10:40 A.M. course; some need to print a paper; some need to check out a library book. While these activities are necessary in college, the timing is not a legitimate excuse. Eating breakfast could be done before class, and printing a paper or checking out a book certainly does not take thirty minutes. With more planning and with a willingness to participate in the EMU campus community, students will act more as one cohesive family.
Just as students will gift the chapel speaker with their presence, the chapel speakers gift students with different perspectives. The mutual relationship benefits all involved; students will have thoughts from a speaker in addition to seeing friends they may not normally see.
Once more students choose to attend chapel, a more diverse audience of voices will be present. On this university campus, we need each other’s voices; attending chapel is one way to listen to others and participate in the campus community.
Nels is a Senior who attends chapel regularly in the Science Center Room 109 at 10:00 A.M. but wonders why he is the only one.