*Article has been edited since publication to fix a previous error on the part of The Voice.*
The Spiritual Formation Department (SFD) hired two new pastors, introduced new opportunities for chapel credit, tightened regulations on chapel petitions, and made changes to chapel fines this academic year, following the hiring of Pastor Mike Whitford last spring.
The department has added two staff members, Pastor Asenath Casarez as Worship Pastor and Krystal Baca as Associate Pastor. Teaming with Whitford, the trio work together to share pastoral power between them, according to Whitford.
Other additions include the number of chapel opportunities offered. Both regular and alternative options have been changed to fit the growing needs of students.
SFD has created Commuter Chapel, which takes place in Needham Chapel on Tuesdays, and added alternative chapels including options such as BAM, More, the Well, and up to five Sunday services at a personal church.
A new way to monitor the chapel petitioning process has been implemented this academic year.
According to Whitford, in coming back to the university, he found it discouraging that there were many students who gave him reasons for not being able (or wanting to) attend chapel, which led him to reevaluate the point of chapel.
In a communal effort, the department chose to present more opportunities for VU Chapel credits to students, as well as a variety of interesting topics that would bring up attendance and be worth experiencing, Whitford explained.
According to Whitford, the university’s Board of Directors determines that each student must achieve 30 chapel credits a semester. However, many people have been given petitions that lower the amount required. Due to the influx of requests, the department created a new philosophy that targets commonalities found in the majority of petitions, Chapel Tracks, while also adhering to the rules made by the board.
Chapel Tracks have been crafted to facilitate the petitioning process. While all students, unless otherwise told, are part of the VU Student Track of 30 chapels a semester, SFD has created other tracks for students meeting the commonalities found.
Students who are unable to fulfill 30 chapel requirements due to either working 25 or more hours a week belong to the Off-Campus Work Track, which allows 20 chapels a semester.
Those who live 10 or more miles away from campus are eligible to be reduced to 20 chapels through the Commuter Track.
The Life Experience Track has been created to give 15 chapels a semester to students who are 30 or more years old, a military veteran, are married, or have children.
While this means fewer students will be able to qualify for reducing petitions, SFD hopes this will benefit the student body as a whole rather than hurt them.
Those who qualify will know if they have been approved for their particular track by Oct. 14.
SFD has additionally altered the fine for not attending the number of chapels required. Referred to as the Attendance Delinquency Scale, students will now be charged for the percentage of chapels attended out of the amount needed.
According to Whitford, this was done with the motive to help students who only have a few chapels missing. Instead of being charged a flat fee, students now will pay between $50-$500 depending on their percentage of attendance.
The vision for next year is to provide up to 10 chapel opportunities per week, so students experience increased accessibility to both fulfill their requirements and grow closer in their relationship with God, according to Whitford.
“We want chapel [to continue] to be a blessing, not a burden,” Baca said.