iChapel makes way for other communal services

As the fall semester begins, Azusa Pacific students will notice a few major changes in the university’s chapel programs. One of the biggest changes is the disbandment of International Chapel, or iChapel, which was previously held Friday mornings in Upper Turner Campus Center (UTCC). 

The decision to get rid of iChapel occurred throughout the 2019 summer season. It was determined between multiple groups on campus including Campus Ministry, Corporate Worship and International Student Services (ISS), who all had worked in partnership with each other to make iChapel a feasible option in previous years.

“[International chapel] served as a consistent connection point where global students and the globally minded could gather together each week and celebrate God’s heart for the nations,” said Vijay Jacob, student services coordinator for ISS. “Friday mornings will definitely look and feel different.”

Coba Canales, dean of spiritual life, said the decision to get rid of iChapel was not an easy one to make. 

“We came to the table looking for a positive solution that would be feasible for everyone,” Canales said. “No decisions were made quickly, but through prayer, dialogue and using our best judgement, we determined that we will find new ways of reaching our international students and domestic students who are globally-minded.” 

According to Canales, it was determined the resources spent on iChapel would better be spent on other aspects of the APU community, including offering new engagement opportunities to commuters, graduate and professional students. They also decided to cut back on Senior Chapel, which will continue to be hosted biweekly, as opposed to last year’s weekly model. 

“In our previous model, many of the student life offices focused on undergraduate student life programming,” Canales said. “That’s just an example of how, as we are now structured differently, those changes have been implemented so that we can best serve all of our students. So that has lead us to multiple conversations about how can we continue to provide amazing opportunities for our students, but how might we do that differently to allow ourselves to extend services to growing populations of students.”

Although iChapel will no longer be offered at APU, the international worship band will still perform weekly. Instead of performing every Friday morning in UTCC, they will perform in a weekly rotation during morning chapels, along with the other chapel bands. They will also regularly lead in multilingual worship, according to Jacob. 

Joseph Choi is a current member of the international worship band and has performed at iChapel in the past. 

“When I first heard that we don’t have iChapel anymore, I was very sad and I was a little disappointed because I had been looking forward to iChapel every year,” Choi said. “Especially for international students … we look forward to iChapel because it’s been like a family reunion or even like a home for many of us because we come together and we learn about each other’s culture and we sing in different languages.”

Choi said he understands why other international students might also feel sad or confused about the change, but he believes this change doesn’t have to be bad.

“I feel like God wanted to raise awareness of international students because now we’re leading in the morning chapels as a rotating team,” Choi said. “There are going to be many students that are not exposed to different languages or … cultures, but because they come to morning chapels, they are going to have experiences and they are going to encounter songs in different languages. So I feel like this is going to be a really cool opportunity for us to share our culture to a greater community — not just people that [used to] come to iChapel but to the whole student body.”

The international worship band will perform for the first time in the new format this upcoming Wednesday. According to Choi, the nine band members can sing in five non-English languages, including Korean, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Spanish. They also plan to lead chapel worship in Hebrew, Japanese and Tagalog songs in the future. 

“We serve a big God,” Canales said. “He’s the God of the world, not just the God of America, or the God of those who speak English as a primary language … I am looking forward to how that trajectory and influence that iChapel has had will continue to shape the ongoing worship experiences of the whole community.”