Chapel Takes on New Look at Wayland

Students sit in single chairs spaced six fee apart in a church auditorium, watching a television monitor.
Wayland students have been divided into 48 small groups for weekly chapel services. The groups are meeting all over campus in areas that can accommodate social distancing guidelines.

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University alumni tell stories about attending chapel from the days when it was required several times a week, to the current practice of attending once a week. Over time, there have been shifts in content and presentations from conducting a traditional worship service, to bringing in guest speakers, to using non-traditional methods such as theatre and pop culture in order to share the gospel. But none of those changes compare to the latest COVID-19 induced shift in chapel.

WBU Director of Spiritual Life Donnie Brown was tasked with assessing chapel during these trying times, and providing a solution to the current situation that prevents gatherings of large groups. Brown is also leading an effort of renewed focus on spiritual life on campus.

As a result, chapel at Wayland looks a little different this semester. The student body has been divided into 48 small groups with facilitators who will lead discussions and assist with group projects. The groups will still meet at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, but they are spread across campus, meeting in locations that can accommodate social distancing guidelines.

Chapel emphasis has also taken on a broader theme this year. As part of the overall plan to focus on Spiritual Life, Brown has built in a number of chapel programs that will focus on the theme “Let Your Light Shine,” based on Matthew 5:16 that says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.”

Each chapel group will choose a social justice topic and conduct a project to increase awareness of the issue and enact change where possible. Topics will include racism, human trafficking and poverty. Chapel services throughout the semester will feature speakers on these topics.

Wayland’s initial chapel, Convocation, was held on Aug. 12, the first day of class. Students watched a video address from WBU President Dr. Bobby Hall as well as a virtual presentation of the Alma Mater. Hall emphasized the Let Your Light Shine theme, encouraging students to shine wherever they are. The message included video testimonials from alumni who are shining all around the world. Brown also introduced students to the concept of small group chapel and the group projects they will conduct during the semester. Brown encouraged students to engage with and contribute to chapel discussions and projects.

Chapel is just one aspect of college life adapting to the “new normal.” Students are also getting used to holding classes in larger rooms or outdoors to better accommodate social distancing guidelines. They are also asked to help keep campus safe by wiping down their stations with disinfectant wipes provided after each class. Wayland will continue to conduct classes on campus throughout the semester. Faculty have prepared, however, to go to a fully online format if required at any time.