What I learned in chapel.

wheaton collegeFrom 1976 to 1979, I was a student at Wheaton College. I majored in Speech Communication, with an emphasis in broadcasting.

We were required to attend chapel four days a week, and convocation one day a week. I believe chapel started at 10:00 am. I believe it lasted until 10:35.

I say, “I believe” because I wasn’t attentive to chapel. I know that we had a certain number of absences, or “cuts”. I know that three lates equalled one cut. I know that people stood at the front of the balcony and took attendance. I know that we were assigned seats and that the assignments varied and included last name, first name, major, or hometown. For all  I know, they may have included middle initial and blood type. There was a chime that sounded ten times. The doors closed at 7. I was often in the parking lot, arriving from home when the chime started. I still start counting every time I hear chimes.

I didn’t have anything against the requirement. I know now that as an introvert and as an off-campus student at a residential campus, I felt like an outsider.

I only remember the words of two speakers in eleven trimesters of chapel. Elizabeth Elliot said that many students decided whether or not to attend chapel based on the reputation of the speaker. If the speaker wasn’t famous, there was no reason to attend.

She said, “You don’t know when God will speak to you through a speaker. Show up.”

It took me decades to understand that she was talking about the importance of spiritual routines. But now my life is increasingly shaped by the value of being present.

Elizabeth Elliot died this week. She was 88. She shaped many lives. She lived with courage. But that one sentence in one chapel proved her point. And hopefully, is shaping your life, too.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

One thought on “What I learned in chapel.

  1. Thank you, Jon, for the renewed challenge to be carefully determined to develop and live by spiritual routines and disciplines.
    I wonder, is there a difference between the two?

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