How Collaboration Brought Chapel to Students During COVID-19

  • By: Victoria Lawson
  • Published: Jul 28, 2020 10:00AM
Taylor students leading chapel worship from home over Instagram Live.

As a nondenominational liberal arts university, Taylor’s commitment to spiritual development is evident in both the classroom and our discipleship community. 

One way students take ownership of their own faith journeys is through chapel. 

Unlike many universities, Taylor doesn’t monitor chapel attendance—yet students fill Rediger Auditorium every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and encourage each other to participate. 

“Corporate worship is important—it's not the church, it’s not the classroom, it's somewhere in between. But there's ownership and involvement and participation from students,” Campus Pastor Rev. Jon Cavanagh said. “It's a valuable part of what happens on campus.”

Lockdown Livestreams

When the COVID-19 campus lockdown dispersed Taylor students across the country and world, continuing chapel remained a priority. 

Cavanagh, Media Services Lead Analyst Michael Fletcher, and Adjunct Music Professor Clif Davis collaborated to make sure the Taylor community could still access chapel three times a week. 

With the help and participation of students, faculty and staff, they established creative livestreams on Instagram Live. 

Though the circumstances were not ideal, chapel livestreams provided a platform for the Taylor community to connect, be encouraged, engage with Scripture, and draw closer to Christ in the midst of the pandemic. 

Growing Together While Apart

One advantage to livestreaming chapel on Instagram was the ability for viewers to interact through comments and reaction buttons. This allowed for more of a laid-back atmosphere and time for questions and answers after many of the chapel speakers’ messages. 

“I wanted students viewing it to feel like it was a conversation, not like someone preaching a public address behind a podium,” Cavanagh said. “It was important for us to continue the learning and growing process. Chapel creates this moment in our normal routines to remove the focus from ourselves and our circumstances and focus more on Christ. It leaves room for the Holy Spirit to convict us… to continue to do that (while social distancing) felt very important.” 

Among many others, speakers included:

  • Author, pastor and speaker Skye Jethani from Wheaton, IL
  • Pastor Nirup Alphonse of Lifegate Church in Denver, CO
  • Aaron and Jill Boyd of Exchange Church in East Belfast, Northern Ireland

Even with time zone differences and some technical challenges, speakers stepped up to the challenge to generously share their time and wisdom. 

The Expectation of Participation

In addition to the chapel messages, Cavanagh and other chapel coordinators incorporated musical worship with the help of Taylor’s student-led chapel bands. Some student bands were able to record songs prior to leaving Taylor, and some led worship from their own homes with their musical family members. 

Chapel bands were not the only way students participated in chapel. Seniors shared their testimonies and reflections about their Taylor experiences by submitting videos for the annual Senior Share chapel.

Using the chapel Instagram account, worship arts program students started a series called the Psalm 46 Project, where they each posted ways to worshipfully interact with the passage through music, dance, creative readings, and more. 

As the spring semester came to a close, Cavanagh was happy to see the Taylor community come together in a way #notdefinedbygeography

“Chapel is not what it is without students caring and wanting to participate,” Cavanagh said. “Taylor is a place that reminds students to get out and live out their faith—that they all have responsibility in their own spiritual formation. Actively participating in chapel is part of that… chapel is expected, but the accountability is through relationships.”

Moving Forward

The chapel experience is the heart of our community worship and spiritual development. Cavanaugh and his team have been working through how to best provide this uniquely formative experience to our students for the fall semester. We currently plan to divide the student body into three groups, and rotate groups among three campus locations throughout the week. Masks will be required and social distancing will be expected in Rediger and the other locations. For more information about what to expect, visit taylor.edu/coronavirus