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Chapel services bring Evangel community together for worship, spiritual development

January 30, 2014 | Ian Richardson

From the front row to the balcony, hundreds of voices unite in song as the student-led worship team plays a chorus from the platform. Some walk down the aisles to the front where student prayer leaders stand ready to pray with them. All across the 2,000-seat auditorium, students stand, sit, kneel, lift their hands or close their eyes in worship.

If you were to step inside the Robert H. Spence Chapel during 10 o’clock hour on a typical Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, this is likely what you’d see. It’s one of Evangel University’s greatest and most important traditions: the Chapel service.

Rev. John Plake, campus pastor, says Chapel services at the core are a community acknowledgement that the goal of the University is to honor God in all aspects of life.

“Everything that we do is worship. We gather during Chapel to remind ourselves of that,” Plake says. “There’s something really powerful about all of us saying, ‘Hey God, here we are, and though we’re learning different things and come from different places, we gather in this room because You are the number-one priority in our lives.’”

Evangel requires students to attend at least 33 Chapel services throughout the semester. But students have several diverse opportunities to fulfill this requirement, which allows them to select what venues and topics work best with their spiritual needs and their schedules.

Chapel options

Main Chapel services are in the Robert H. Spence Chapel auditorium every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning. In addition, the School of Theology and Church Ministries holds an entirely student-led and student-run Chapel service on Monday mornings in the Seymour Chapel at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Students can also attend smaller events such as student-led Wednesday morning Chapel services, a variety of services at AGTS and weekly devotions at their residence hall floors.

Throughout the week, students have additional opportunities to attend alternate Chapels, which are services often organized by a residence hall or academic department. This variety of opportunities helps students choose the times and settings that work best for them to set apart.

Senior Bama Dills says she enjoys the opportunity Chapel offers to praise and worship as a community of Christ followers.

“It’s much more than a meeting or a gathering,” she says. “It’s a time in the day when I can put aside my worries and focus on God.”

Dr. Sheri Phillips, interim vice president for Student Development, agrees.

“Throughout our day, we all are going in a hundred different directions, and we’re all focusing on different things, but three times a week, we have the opportunity to get together as a community and as a set of people that are like-minded in their faith and believe in God and say, ‘We’re just going to pause for this 50-minute time period and just focus on worship and our efforts toward God,’” she says.

Chapel speakers

When it comes to speakers, the Spiritual Life Office ensures students have the chance to hear a variety of people with different personalities, perspectives and areas of expertise.

Plake, as well as Dr. Carol Taylor, president-elect and CEO, speak frequently during the semester. President Robert Spence is also a favorite speaker.

However, most services feature guest speakers from inside and outside the Evangel community. Some of Evangel’s recent guest speakers include Convoy of Hope cofounder Dave Donaldson, Chaplain Cecil Richardson, ministers Bryan Jarrett and Herbert Cooper, and Assemblies of God General Superintendent Dr. George Wood. Also, once a month, the University holds a chapel service with no speaker, only prayer and worship music.

Plake says the Spiritual Life Office selects a theme to cover each semester, such as developing Christian leadership skills, finding purpose, growing spiritually through spiritual disciplines and talking with others about our Christian faith.

The Spiritual Life Office designates the first week of each semester as Spiritual Emphasis Week, where all of the main Chapel services cover a certain theme. Students have the opportunity to attend an additional Wednesday morning service and two evening services during the week as well.

This semester students gathered for several services focused on the Holy Spirit, and evangelist Tim Enloe spoke during the morning and evening services.

Later this semester, Evangel will hold World Changers Week, in which missionaries from Latin America will come speak about world missions. Other events this semester will include the Horton Lectureship Series, which focuses on Evangel’s Pentecostal heritage. Dr. Del Tarr and Dr. Ruth Burgess will be the guest speakers.

Senior Andrew Parks, one of the organizers of the new student-led Wednesday Chapels, says the moments in Chapel that stand out most to him are the extended altar calls during Spiritual Emphasis Week, the praise and worship chapels, and the times that passionate speakers come to share their messages with the Evangel community.

“Rarely do you get the chance to experience the pursuit of God in the context of such a lively community such as the Evangel student body,” he says. “Being surrounded by students who desire the exaltation of Christ as much as you do is an opportunity you should not miss.”

Paul Thompson, sophomore, says he appreciates how the services speak to his day-to-day life.

“I have had many profound moments of spiritual insight during some Evangel chapels, and in others I have learned good practical advice,” he says.

With the opportunity to worship alongside fellow Christian students, engage in prayer and hear messages relevant to college life and beyond, chapel is an essential part of the Evangel experience, one different from anywhere else.

In Thompson’s words, “You never know what exciting things you will miss if you don’t come to Chapel.”

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