The Rev. Sandra Van Opstal, the executive pastor at Grace and Peace Community Church in Chicago, never expected the emotional toll that being a member for the Christian movement would have on her.
As someone who has long studied the movement, acquiring both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, she considers herself to be a “professional Christian.” However, throughout her education, she noted that she was never truly prepared.
“My Christian movement did not tell me it was going to be hard. I was not ready for the emotional toll this journey would lead me on,” she said. “If I wanted to be successful or happy, I would have stayed home. The hard part is to come out here and plead to the people of the church.”
Speaking at First Free Methodist on Nov. 6 for chapel, Van Opstal spoke on the importance of leading worship. She emphasized not only worshipping acts of God, but the Lord himself.
Speaking of her own personal issues of not being able to conceive a child, she noted how her community came together in worship.
“I felt hopeless,” she added.
The community prayed for her through her first miscarriage. By the time she was able to conceive and had given birth, the entire community felt as if they had given birth as well, she explained.
Van Opstal’s recurring message was this: worship orients, disorients and reorients us to God.
“Worshiping is reorienting us to God, not just his work,” she explained.
She encouraged those in this community to think about what keeps us in worship, that what we do every Sunday morning is leading worship through song that helps us get throughout the week.
Van Opstal asked, “Do you come to God or go to social media, friends? If you’re going to gripe, gripe to the Lord. He knows what you’re going through, he can handle it.”
“Remember that God is in control. Nothing is impossible for God who reigns,” she said. “He is in control. He is steadfast, unmovable. Glory and mystery of God is revealed through church,” Van Opstal reminded.
First year theology student Sydni Hampton thought this service was different from the previous week’s chapels.
“Initially when I went to chapel the first week of school, it was different, more traditional. Personally, it felt more controlled. Today felt less structured, more freeing. I felt that I had more breathing room in a space designated to worship Jesus.”
John Perkins Center director Tali Hairston believes a chapel worship experience would be beneficial for students.
“Some students haven’t experienced this. They have not been able to develop value for it, or learn to value this,” he said
In order to truly understand the value of experiencing this, he recommends creating time.
“We value and respect God to make time. It is valuable in the community to put aside self actions to come together — the agenda being to worship God. Make it a regular part that’s not all about yourself, learn to value him. We waste so much time,” he continued.
Third-year theater student and worship team member Emily Frier feels being part of the worship team is a built in opportunity to worship God in the community.
“Mid-week is a refreshing place to come and be fulfilled again,” she explained. “It’s a great opportunity to speak about God and worship over campus.”
Opstal’s message on the reorientation to God encourages more of the community to join hands in worship.
“We all want God to do great things, but we don’t put the time in on our part. As with any relationship, you must put the time into it,” Hairston said.