The Student News Site of Westmont College

The Horizon

The Student News Site of Westmont College

The Horizon

The Student News Site of Westmont College

The Horizon

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Launching of alternative chapel for non-Christians

The month of January often offers and inspires the fresh and new, which certainly proved to be true on Wednesday, Jan. 17, which marked the first meeting of the newly-launched alternative chapel. On Friday, Jan. 12, chapel-goers received the intriguing news that a new, alternative form of chapel would initiate during Wednesday chapel time. Students who do not identify as Christians were encouraged to fill out a form for the chance to participate, in which a small group of them would be selected. In the interest, there is not only the notion that the steady pattern of the idea of chapel is set to expand, but that there is little known about how it would proceed. The heads of this project, ICP director Blake Thomas, and CAPS director Eric Nelson, spoke to this shakeup of routine.

Who is this alternative chapel for? It is diametrically different from the usually targeted chapel crowd. Nelson explained how his concerns are “for students at Westmont that no longer identify as Christian, or feel discomfort with that label, often their concerns are related to places where the church has poorly represented Jesus, such as through abuses of power, marginalization or even personal experiences of social isolation and not feeling accepted. It can be challenging to express hardship, doubt and hurt experienced in Christian communities as we are often quick to jump in with apologetics, Christian clichés or advice that people should pray or read their Bible more.” He also mentioned that students who do not have a Christian background who have questions about the faith may be attending as well.

However, both Blake Thomas and Eric Nelson made it clear that while it may be different from the norm in attendees and format, it is still chapel. It is held during the normal chapel time and counts as chapel yet, Thomas affirmed that its weekly meetings operate without the usual chapel sermon, in favor of “a discussion that’s driven by people’s questions, concerns and experiences.” This element of a separate, discussion-based time, which is intentionally unlike the usual chapel atmosphere, and functions in order to unpack the meaning of the Christian faith, is inspired by Thomas’s own history. Thomas said, “We want to look beyond Westmont and recognize that people experience all sorts of pain and trauma in and from the Church. That’s a significant part of my own experience, and I know how difficult it was for me to sit through church services while I was in the middle of those experiences, or even early in my process of healing. And for me, that healing allowed me to remain rooted in my faith. Ultimately, that’s the goal of this alternative chapel.”

While concerned individuals expressed sentiments about it being a “conversion chapel,” Nelson clarified how alternative chapel is not meant to be a conversion intervention. “The goal, though, is that people can be wherever they are at, comfortable expressing their own story without fear of rejection or dismissal of their experience. We are not tricking them into a relationship with Jesus and we are not going to end the time together with an altar call. We will explore who actually Jesus was in ways less mired in the baggage we have ascribed to him from historical failings in the church, and ways in which this may connect with their own story and experience.” The two leaders are aiming for healing in their small group based on what truth they can offer about Christianity.

As for the future of alternative chapel, Nelson expressed a hopeful attitude after the first meeting: “I am biased, but the first meeting was encouraging, connecting and I am sincerely looking forward to the closeness this group will have as we navigate through the journeys that each have had in relation to faith.” Thomas added, “My hope is that this semester will serve as a proof of concept that propels something similar forward for the foreseeable future.”

Don't miss out!
Subscribe To The Horizon Newsletter

Sign up to receive weekly highlights of our favorite articles from News, Sports, Arts & Entertainment and more! 


Invalid email address
You can unsubscribe at any time.
View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All The Horizon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    Jordan OgawaFeb 18, 2024 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you for providing coverage on this topic! I wanted to point out that Blake Thomas is the director of Intercultural Programs, not just a coordinator.