New chapel would neglect Non-Protestants

If SPU wants to attract people from diverse backgrounds, a required chapel is not going to do the trick. Mandatory chapel will only attract people who want a strictly Protestant experience. Belonging to the Greek Orthodox tradition, I already feel neglected on this campus of mostly Protestants. This being said, the proposal for required chapel does in fact acknowledge that SPU is currently lacking in its accommodation of the diverse religious traditions on campus. There’s only one church for many different people.

But the solution the 11-page document offers is vague: “Worship in chapel will reflect the breadth and depth of God’s kingdom by including a variety of worship styles. Chapel leadership should draw from the breadth of campus demographics and reflect campus diversity.” What exactly does “variety of worship styles” mean? Will there be readings from the Torah? Will the Quran be brought in? Will incense and chanting make regular appearances? Probably not.

As a Greek Orthodox, I wonder what my place in the required chapel services would be. Technically, I’m not even allowed to take Communion from a non–Greek Orthodox Church.

This required chapel would be forcing me to break the rules of the tradition of my church and my culture. Further, our Communion consists of wine and bread. Will there be wine at this new required chapel? Probably not.
The proposal seems to offer the simple solution that while I would still be required to attend, I could just sit as an observer. But what’s the point of going to church to merely be an observer?

We go to church to worship God and bond with Jesus Christ and each other through taking Communion. I would be forced to sit and do nothing while I could be studying, working or going to a church that I can take Communion from and want to worship in. This new required chapel would be ripping non-Protestants away from their traditions and forcing them to feel even more left out because it is being approached from the Wesleyan tradition. There just seems to be no place for anyone who isn’t a Protestant.

Will the back pew be a row of Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox feeling marginalized once again? Will they be forced to sit and be surrounded by the unfamiliar hymns of someone else’s traditions? Probably so.


Editor’s note: SPU’s current chapel does not include communion, nor do the proposed changes to chapel include communion.

This article was posted in the section Opinion.
Kelly Pantoleon

Copy Editor Kelly Pantoleon is a senior creative writing major.

4 thoughts on “New chapel would neglect Non-Protestants

  1. One of the tasks of the Church (One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, meaning all of us) is learning how to be united in our diversity. I think you raise good questions, although your attitude seems very defeatist. Your faith tradition deserves representation on campus and I hope that you will not stop at voicing your opinion and work to be part of a solution for how all people will be able to feel included.

  2. Kelly, my comments are in response to some of the theological points you raised. They are not in response to the Task Force memo.

    I am also Greek Orthodox. While it is true that we cannot receive communion in Chapel, a Chapel service rarely offers communion. Why couldn’t we worship the Holy Trinity in a Chapel service? Yes, some of the tunes are unfamiliar but every good and perfect gift comes from above. What prevents us–except for our own lack of familiarity–from connecting with the cloud of witnesses, the Mother of God, and the bodiless powers of heaven as we connect with Jesus through the Chapel worship service?

    Orthodox altars are holy. But we carry within us a holy altar, as well. As Christ is the icon of the invisible Father, so is the little icon of God inside us. We can worship the Trinity everywhere. As long as Chapel service does not substitute for the foundational expression of Christian unity, namely participation in the Holy Mysteries, attending a Chapel service can only serve to enlarge our capacity for loving Christ and each other.

    Thank you for your thoughtful message. And may our Lent continue to inspire us to seek God. In expected and unexpected places.

    • Dr. Vokos,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. These are definitely some things that I haven’t thought about much. I think my frustration tends to override my ability to see the positives sometimes. But again, thank you for taking the time to reply to my column and offer some insight.

  3. I’m very impressed with Stamatis’ response to Kelly, an authentic and mature Christian comment. I won’t try to improve on it. Only to say that I attended SPU back in the days when Chapel was required (Class of ’79). It was M-W-F and I believe you were expected to attend a certain number of chapels in a Quarter. We were given attendance cards that we turned in as we left Chapel each time. Our chapels were fairly diverse. One featured a Jesuit priest who taught us all how to dance before the Lord! There was never an anti-Catholic chapel or anti-anything. There was no Muslim emphasis, as that was rightly considered a non-Christian religion. We did have a couple dozen Muslim exchange students from Saudi Arabia on campus though I never saw them at Chapel. I felt there could have been more of a Catholic emphasis (without a Mass), as there are probably always Catholic students at SPU. Chapel was also helpful when there was some crisis on campus; for example, a girl took her own life in her dorm room and the entire chapel service the next day was devoted to her, her friends remembering her smile and other experiences with her. One of the faculty spoke briefly from the Bible about “choosing life”, that life is a gift from God. It’s hard to say or hear that when someone you loved made a different choice. The service helped everyone to find closure. I realize that people want to study or do other things, but there is nothing more meaningful in college (or any time in life) than connecting with God and asking Him to help us with our next steps forward.

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