There are many reasons a student might decide to attend Northwestern College. Often, these decisions are based on NW’s Christian atmosphere. This environment is cultivated through general education requirements, discipleship groups and chapel. It is clear the administration is committed to the development of its students’ faith, as chapel is required for all students on campus.
However one might feel about a required chapel system, none can deny it showcases how deeply invested NW is in the spiritual development of its students. Chapel is a space where students can worship, engage in God’s word and be exposed to new ideas that help to grow their faith. These can be integral parts of growing spiritually, and NW continues to emphasize the importance of this growth through the Christian Formation credit system.
While the amount of students attending Christian Formation credit opportunities continues to be strong, there is a stunning lack of professors attending these opportunities, especially chapel. A group of regularly attending professors does exist, but they continue to be an exception to the norm.
Professors should attend chapel because NW should be committed to the spiritual growth of its students and its faculty. Some may say the blame belongs to the college for not mandating professors attend chapel, but this is not the case. According to section 6.2.2 of the faculty handbook, “Faculty shall attend the chapel services held daily under the direction of the chaplain.” While this does not include specific details for a credit system, it strongly indicates NW expects its professors to be at chapel.
On top of the institutional call to chapel attendance, there are merits for the campus community. Often, after a particularly strong speaker speaks, students want to discuss what was said by that speaker. Throughout my time at NW, there have been multiple instances where I had class after a particularly interesting chapel. The students in my class would walk in discussing what was said, and the professor would have no idea what was being talked about. Had the professor been at chapel that day, they could have contributed more to the conversation. Since professors seldom attend chapel, they miss out on the opportunity to facilitate meaningful discussions on campus.
Professors attending chapel would also enhance the sense of community on campus. Many students build strong relationships with the professors they have in class each day, and being in chapel with one another would create another opportunity for students and professors to interact outside of class.
Professors say they stream chapel on their computer instead of attending in person. I agree that this is better than not attending at all, but it forgoes the benefits of building community with students. It is also possible that one could turn on the chapel stream and easily let it recede into the background without paying any attention to it.
NW has continued to hold a deep commitment to the spiritual growth of each member in its community. I ask the professors of NW to consider their institutional obligation and begin attending chapel more frequently. It is an opportunity to worship and grow in community with students, and it is potentially an opportunity to facilitate life-changing conversations on campus. I applaud the professors who already attend chapel, and I encourage them to ask a colleague to come along next time.