Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Chapel attendance remains consistent, doubles for Thursday service

Nolan Cowan
Calvin’s chapel hosts weekday services Monday through Friday.

Changes to Thursday chapel, made in an effort to increase student connection with contemplative worship, seem to be paying off as other chapel attendance trends stay consistent. 

In previous years, only about 50-60 students attended Thursday chapels, according to Paul Ryan, worship pastor and chapel service coordinator. He believes this was likely because the service focused mostly on worship practices like Lectio Divina — a kind of contemplative reading of Scripture — that may have felt foreign to students. Now, with the switch to acoustic worship, attendance on Thursdays has doubled. 

“Pastor Paul really cares about how students are engaging with things…we want people to come to chapel,” said Worship Apprentice Kayla Adkins, a sophomore studying social work and psychology.  “I think [Thursday Chapel] has been going well and I think Calvin students are liking it even more.”

Meg Pheifer, a sophomore studying history, told Chimes that she goes to chapel primarily because of her commitment to Jesus, but finds the way the Campus Ministries team plans diverse types of worship services “very intentional… For me, that’s just been very enriching to sort of look beyond the ways that I have exercised my faith in the past, and sort of see other ways that people worship the Lord.” 

Pheifer said she finds Thursday chapels harder to connect with because participation requires a more specific frame of mind, but she finds the switch to acoustic worship helpful. “Music kind of helps facilitate the introspective nature of meditation…it lessens a little bit of the awkwardness.”

Chapel attendance during other days of the week has mostly stayed consistent over the last four years, according to Ryan. Worship Apprentices (WAs) used to take daily chapel attendance but they stopped in the fall of 2016 because “the pattern was so consistent,” Ryan told Chimes. Now, the ministry team takes a record of chapel attendance during several key weeks in the semester. “We only have data for Week 3 this fall so far, but it is consistent with the last four years,” Ryan said. 

The data collected so far this year is consistent with past trends of daily attendance, but it is also consistent with changes across the semester. As students begin the fall semester, they typically have a lot of free time to go to chapel, –– but as their schedules fill up, attendance drops off. “When you compare the beginning of the fall to the end of the spring, attendance is significantly higher now, which leads to the perception that attendance is up in the given year,” Ryan told Chimes. 

Chapel services in general have created a safe space for some students to rekindle their relationship with the Lord. Sophomore Mar Schuurman –– a philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major –– felt a lot of tension in her faith her freshman year, but chapel services “felt just like a safe place…It just felt much more open and non-judgmental.” 

At her home church, she said she often felt like the worship service was designed to force a certain kind of emotional experience on you, but the authentic way in which the Campus Ministry team led worship allowed her to rethink her faith. 

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