The problem with elective chapels

Views 32 | Time to read: 1 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 14 - 2019 | By: Chena Underhill


Elective chapels are undermining Westmont’s Christian identity. At first I was bemused by the phenomenon of the elective chapel; “Is chapel so bad that they can’t get people to show up? Are so many students exceeding their 12 skips that the school is offering redemption rounds?”

Then, an email went out offering chapel-credit for a survey, and it hit me: chapel has become a currency.
Because the extension of chapel-credit to activities outside of chapel is now standard procedure at Westmont, I feel compelled to detail the dangers of this development.
Westmont is a Christian school. The fact that we gather multiple times a week to worship and seek God together is an integral part of living out that identity. Chapel is corporate, not individual. Chapel is a community defining activity-a part of Westmont being Westmont-not the product of Westmont saying, “Hmm…we are a Christian school, so we should make the students do a lot of ‘Christiany’ things.”

Offering chapel-credit for non-chapel activities suggests that Westmont’s whole-community gatherings are not unique and important. It makes chapel into a consumer activity rather than a communal one. Instead of Westmont coming together weekly to reaffirm and shape our corporate identity, students come to fulfill their mandated God-quota for the semester.

I understand that students need incentives to attend outside events and I applaud the Campus Pastor’s office for offering students additional spiritual formation opportunities. However, chapel-credit is not an appropriate incentive. Offering it kills the vision of chapel as a central tenet of Westmont’s identity. Chapel should be irreplaceable in our community life. Chapel doesn’t always feel like it meets this standard, but further devaluing chapel by providing alternative avenues for chapel-credits only compounds the problem.


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