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Chapel students refreshed by the Holy Spirit
March 29, 2018
Jenny Shildroth wakes up around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, ready to enjoy the day. Before heading to class, she puts on jeans and a t-shirt, brushes her teeth, and then walks through the crisp morning air to get breakfast. Every week she looks forward to Thursdays, and she is confident this one won’t disappoint.
On the opposite end of campus, Lindsey Miles awakens to the shrill beeping of her alarm and realizes it’s Thursday. Lindsey loves Thursdays. Maybe not more than the weekend when sleep is in abundance, but Thursdays are still pretty special. She hops out of bed, pulls on a sweatshirt and leggings, and heads out the door for breakfast.
As the church bells sound on the hour throughout the morning, each powerful chime plays a different tune, bringing Jenny and Lindsey one moment closer to their favorite part of their Thursday.
Following her 9:30 a.m. class, Lindsey gets a text from her friend, “Are you going to chapel?”
Her answer? “Yes!”
Thursdays are for chapel.
At Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, chapel service is held every Thursday at 11 a.m. in Schaeller Chapel. On a campus of nearly 1,000 students, only 20 people attend on a regular basis.
As Jenny and Lindsey both make their way into Schaeller Chapel on the north end of campus, they are met with a comfortable atmosphere that makes them feel at home. The chatter of 20 voices fills the room, people sitting in chairs or standing in groups up on the stage. There are two sections of seats, each with three rows and about ten chairs per row. In the front, there’s a cross with a net lying over it and candles, and next to it is Chaplain Ken Meissner’s podium with his Bible and notes. To the left, the praise band warms up.
“Hello, good morning,” exclaims Ken. “How are you doing today?”
For both Jenny and Lindsey, chapel is another way to “get some Jesus into their week,” as Jenny says, and spend time in an environment filled with fellow Christians. They rarely miss.
Jenny, a senior at BVU, has been attending chapel since her freshman year.
“No matter how crazy the semester gets, I can look forward to chapel,” says Jenny. “I get to see people that I don’t always get to see, and it’s nice to spend time with them in that environment.”
Lindsey is younger, a freshman student who is just beginning her faith story on campus.
“It is important to be aware of the people around you who share the love of Jesus,” said Lindsey. “Attending chapel is a great way to find those people and make those connections.”
After Ken finishes saying a prayer, the praise band begins to play. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re singing “Good, Good Father,” “Halleluiah,” “Remind Me Who I Am,” or something else. As the music flows from their mouths, sounds are warbled and others are right on tune. But as Jenny and Lindsey follow along in praise, “Sing to the Lord, oh my soul. Let the heavens shout for joy, great is our God, great is our God,” they sing with abandon, worshipping God for all that he is and sharing his love out loud for all to hear. The sounds of a few voices reverberate around the room, while others sing out more softly.
“I love the singing part of chapel,” says Lindsey. “The songs are extremely uplifting and it does not matter if you are tone deaf and sound horrible when you sing. It is the act of singing and sharing God’s love and word through your voice, no matter what it sounds like.”
As the piano softens and the guitars slow, Jenny, Lindsey, and the rest of the group bow their heads to pray. In their minds they ask for forgiveness and lift up others in need. As Ken ends the prayer, “And the people of the Lord said…” pausing so the voices can fill the silence with a resounding, “Amen!”
Ken has given hundreds of sermons over the course of his time at BVU, but for the students it never gets old hearing what he has to share. Even as a freshman, Lindsey gives Ken high praise.
“I think I enjoy his sermons the most because he connects the message to campus life. He understands we are all here trying to get an education, and he can show the importance of your faith and forgiveness in college,” says Lindsey.
Jenny agrees wholeheartedly.
“I love Ken’s sermons. He can create a story and tie it into real life from the Bible verses, and he seems to know just what we need to hear at the right time,” she says.
Back at the chapel service, Ken keeps it interactive as he has students get into groups and share their fears, truly desiring to hear what the students have to say. As he connects to students, he sheds new light on old, familiar stories in the Bible, giving them a different perspective to think about.
As the sermon ends, students close their eyes, folding their hands in prayer. While Ken presents one final thought and blesses the students across campus, students sway to the gentle strumming of the guitar.
“May the Lord Bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace,” says Ken, signaling the end of the service.
Refreshed and inspired, students leave in groups to spend time at lunch together. Whether they are a freshman like Lindsey or a senior like Jenny, a devoted Christian or someone exploring their faith, a confident singer or a bit tone-deaf, students connect and grow alongside each other.
“I think sometimes we get caught up in needing to feel God’s presence from other people, but God’s presence is only apparent if you let it be,” said Jenny. “God can be in places where you wouldn’t normally think, but God is definitely in chapel because there is a group of people, both big and small, coming together to worship the God of the universe together. Of course the Holy Spirit is in the room.”
Photo by Ella Wiebusch
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