By Tien Thai & Nathan Foster
As a Christian university, Azusa Pacific provides a variety activities that make it a “God First” community, one of which is chapel.
Chapel serves as a requirement that all undergraduate students must adhere to thrice weekly. There are different types of chapel that students can choose to attend depending on their schedules.
The options that APU provides are: morning chapels, international chapel, kaleo, liturgical, evening prayers and senior chapel for those who have 84 or more credits.
Students must attend three chapels a week, regardless of which types of chapel they choose to go to. They are allowed to have up to 10 absences per semester, but any more than 10 will result in penalties by APU.
Beside these primary requirements, the Chapel Programs office on campus also has other different policies of attending chapel that students must abide by, including being fully present during chapel by not talking, sleeping, eating, drinking or using cell phones. Students who consistently break this policy will face consequences including fines.
Even though chapel is the aspect that represents APU as a Christian and “God First” university, there are many students still inquiring about the actual reason for the consequences of more than ten chapel absences and what can and cannot count for chapel attendances.
Courtnee Reaves, a junior biology major, shared her perspective on the chapel requirements.
“I personally love chapel. It is something I look forward to each day that I go. For me it is a nice break and a chance to take a deep breath in the middle of my day,” Reaves said. “I normally go on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings so I don’t feel like they’re really obstacles that prevent me from attending three times a week as required, unless I have a big exam that week.”
Rachel Johns, a junior biology major, explained her opposing viewpoints on chapel.
“I like chapel and I usually enjoy the chapel speakers, but there are times I don’t want to go. I think three times is a bit much and classes are difficult, so sometimes I would rather study,” Johns said.
Reaves also shared some of her favorite parts of chapel, as well as the aspect she believes need to be changed.
“I think the chapel speakers in general are pretty good, we have had some really good speakers,” Reaves said. “Worship is my favorite part normally, but one thing I would like would be for the chapel bands to change up their songs every once in a while. I feel like we sing the same songs all semester.”
Karis Acosta, a sophomore nursing major, expressed her thoughts about chapel at APU.
“I enjoy chapel, even though it is a little hard to listen to when you have a long class in the morning before,” Acosta said. “I feel like it is a big reason why I chose to come to APU, because I think that it is a great opportunity to grow closer to God during the week.”
Acosta acknowledged that she had some potential struggles that have prevented her at times from constantly attending chapel.
“Sometimes it feels like a lot and I have a hard time making it to chapel. I think one of my
biggest obstacles would be the morning chapel. If I did not have class before chapel, it would be very hard to get myself up and out the door just for chapel. But that is kind of on me, not so much on chapel itself,” Acosta said.
Acosta affirmed the spiritual advantages that she believes chapel has provided for her throughout her time here at APU.
“I think it is really good building time to worship God and just being in His presence. It just helps me slow down and remember. I think that three chapels a week is good, since we have more than three different times we can go,” Acosta said. “I like a lot of the speakers. I feel like it is fun to hear someone different all the time and get different views on things, and to have diversity in chapel.”
Acosta defined the purpose for having chapel is for students to grow closer with God, while putting away distractions. She said dedicating a few times a week for chapel is really a good way to help students grow in their walk with God.
Pastor Jason Le Shana, the Director of Chapel Programs, shared the origins and intentions of chapel.
“Chapel has been around APU virtually as long as the school has existed. Originally, in the first few decades of school history, there was a daily chapel requirement for all students. In other words, students would literally go to chapel every single day of the week. In the mid ‘60s, it was altered to the current requirement of three times per week,” Le Shana said.
Le Shana said that the requirement is three times a week in order to provide a constant rhythm of corporate worship for undergraduates.
“The requirement is designed to work within the rhythm of an academic week. From a mission and philosophical perspective, the goal is to develop a consistent rhythm for students to be able to participate in, maybe for the first time, the discipline of participating in regular corporate worship as a learning community” Le Shana said.
As the Director of Chapel Programs, Le Shana’s job includes empowering, encouraging and helping the staff in the office to facilitate the elements of providing different chapel services.
“Additionally, there is a great deal of partnering and conversing across the university and even outside of the university on different elements related to chapel. That includes working with our team to think through programming elements such as speaker selection, worship style/genre, and so forth,” LeShana said.
LeShana also acknowledged the purpose of morning chapels and evening chapels, and how they function distinctively on campus.
“Evening chapels are technically considered optional chapels, although they count for chapel attendance in the same way as a morning chapel. The requirement itself rests in those morning times when the academic calendar has been cleared to allow the undergraduate community to come together to attend chapel,” Le Shana said. “As a school with Wesleyan holiness roots, we desire to facilitate chapels that engage in our diversity of denomination and culture to provide different ways of worshipping together.”
Le Shana described the different kinds of chapels.
“Morning chapels feature a combination of our campus pastors, administrators, faculty, local pastors, outside speakers and others in addition to our student-led worship team. Senior chapel started a number of years ago out of a concern for the unique experience of seniors,” Le Shana said. “Kaleo is a chapel where we often go through a particular book in the Bible. There are more opportunities for interactive elements, and art is often utilized.”
According to Le Shana, the other kinds of chapel are important for offering worship for students with a variety of faith backgrounds.
“Liturgical chapel and evening prayers chapel are a bit newer. Beyond pragmatic space-related causes, these chapels were launched out of the desire of having a space that recognizes the streams of a faith that are out of the liturgical tradition, and do that in a way that is contextualized to the APU community,” Le Shana said. “International chapel is an opportunity for our international and national students to come together in a place that is uniquely set aside, where there is worship in a variety of languages and there is an opportunity to engage in a more relational way.”
In regards to the chapel speaker selection process, Le Shana explained that Chapel Programs has several steps to go through. These include: receiving speaker suggestions from the APU community members, then reviewing the suggested speakers with the executive chapel committee in order to make the final decision of who will be speaking and when they will speak. Chapel Programs gets more speaker suggestions than they have room for every year.
Le Shana said that Chapel Programs has their own learning outcomes and commitments to create chapel in a biblical, diverse, relevant and challenging manner.
Lastly, Le Shana acknowledged other types of chapel in a series setting and in recognition of some main holidays according to the Christian calendar.
“For a number of years, there also have been several series set aside to highlight the Student Life Values of local and global engagement, wellness, spiritual formation, diversity and community,” Le Shana said. “We also set aside some morning chapels to recognize different key dates in the Christian calendar. Examples include Christ The King chapel, Advent chapel, Ash Wednesday chapel, Holy Week chapel and Easter celebration chapel.”