Sophomore Tamara Philips and Professor Ed Rybarczyk discuss
Spiritual Formation’s method of enforcing integrity.
Chapel. Some students ardently love it. Others hate having to go. Yet, everyone has an opinion about it! My experience is that most VU students are happy that chapel is a constituent part of their college experience here. They know 30 chapels per semester are required when they sign their contract upon enrollment. Others don’t mind it in theory, but when the semester’s pressures accumulate they find it burdensome. Still others sign their contract knowing they have zero intention of attending regularly.
If there are tensions, why is chapel required? There are several sound reasons. As a Christian institution, Vanguard has long held that spiritual formation is a vital element of one’s experience here. The original founders, and most administrators across VU’s ninety years, believed the school exists not only to offer academic degrees but also to shape the hearts (volition, affections) of its students. Put differently, Vanguard takes a pedagogical approach that is holistic: people are not only thinking creatures, they are desiring creatures. Our desires can be shaped profoundly by experiences amid prayer, corporate worship, and devotional messages.Students’ growth in Christ frequently occurs via chapel.
Another important, if seldom stated, reason is that Vanguard wants parents and relatives (i.e., tuition payers!) to know that attending students will be offered a spiritually rounded experience. Historic studies show that Christian schools that shut down chapels quickly lose their commitment to Christ and His gospel as foundational for a university education. Finally, Vanguard hopes that non-believers who attend here (is it 10%?) have opportunity to encounter the Living Christ, and chapel often facilitates that. I hope all students will remember each of these well-founded reasons before they grumble about the chapel policy.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that dozens of students regularly “swipe n’ ditch.” In response, the Spiritual Life office recently has posted “integrity officers” at chapel exit doors to discourage truancy. Some people say, “you can’t force morality.” The truth? Morality is enforced everyday around the world as people routinely modify their behavior in light of existing laws. Similarly, can chapel attendance be enforced? Sure. The question is whether that fosters the genuine growth in faith that is hoped for across the campus?
One legitimate perspective is that Spiritual Life doesn’t want students to violate integrity. After all, no student here signed their contract while an admissions counselor held a gun to their head. And, if someone swipes their ID card and enters chapel it lacks integrity to proceed directly to a nearby exit. Another perspective is that Christian growth only happens through freely accepted grace. Does coerced chapel attendance foster authentic growth, or does it have the unintended consequence of fostering resentment? Is it the case that VU needs to rethink its admissions policy more than its chapel policy? That is, are we recruiting students who genuinely want to be here, 30 chapels and all? Or are we recruiting students regardless of their faith commitments? May we all exercise charity as we work through such issues.
It’s Tuesday morning. I groan as I scramble for my phone to turn off the dreadful ringing alarm. I ask myself, “Why am I getting up at 9:00 a.m. if I don’t have class until noon?”
Chapel. Some of us love going to chapel, while some of us absolutely dread attending. Though we are required 30 attendances per semester, students should have a choice if they want to go to chapel. They should not be forced to attend.
Since we attend a Christian University, we signed a contract stating that we would attend 30 chapels each semester. As Professor Rybarczyk mentioned, many students do not intend to attend chapel despite the contract they signed.
Since we deliberately applied to a university that implements Christian values, I would think going to chapel a couple times a week wouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, I am wrong in making this assumption, given the amount of students who avoid chapel.
While many enjoy fulfilling this requirement, some students avoid attending chapel at all costs. The common phrase to identify those who avoid chapel are the “swipe n’ ditchers.” Because the “swipe n’ ditchers” have been accumulating, Spiritual Formation has implemented a new concept they hope will give students the opportunity to practice integrity.
With “integrity officers” guarding each door during chapel services and collecting ID cards upon using the restroom, Spiritual Formation aims to keep students from “swiping n’ ditching.” In essence, they are forcing students to stay in chapel—whether they like it or not.
I praise the Spiritual Formation department for giving students the chance to practice integrity. However, I believe this new method of doing so is somewhat asinine. Let me remind Spiritual Formation that we are college students, not toddlers—they should be giving us the opportunity make our own decisions as moral people and as adults, not forcing morality upon us.
Professor Rybarczyk and I recently discussed the dynamics of chapel. Both of us agreed that the students who sit in front typically experience a completely different chapel than those who linger in back. With this being said, why would you prevent students who come to chapel willingly (those in front) from gaining the spiritual experience they yearn for by forcing students who are obviously indifferent to the service (those in back) to stay?
Forcing students to stay in chapel is like forcing faith on them—it can’t be done. Unfortunately, students will always find a way to avoid chapel despite Spiritual Formation’s attempts. If students want to attend chapel, praise the Lord! However, if students wish to continue “swiping n’ ditching,” the guilt is on them. As Dr. Sim once said in my New Testament class, “God knows if you are telling the truth.”
Remove these “integrity officers” from the doorways and you will see who is at Vanguard to develop their faith, and who is here for alternate motives. Give the students the chance to practice integrity by giving them a choice.