Professor McDonald remembers taking Unity Christian High School students to visit Spanish chapels at Northwestern in 2005 before she was a NW faculty member. Fourteen years have passed, and Spanish chapels are still an integral part of the college for many.
The services are on Wednesday each month. They are generally held in the choir room, with the exception of one praise and worship service a semester held in Christ Chapel.
There are many benefits to attending Spanish chapel. Other than the services have abundant opportunities to practice the comprehension and use of Spanish, many students also note that the services are very spiritually impactful.
McDonald highlights the spiritual benefits of attending, as she said, “Both the leaders and participants experience something intangible that comes from the understanding that we worship a big God – a God that not only transcends language and culture, but the One who is the very Creator of it in all of its beauty.”
The services provide students with unique leadership opportunities. Students read scripture, play in the worship band and sometimes even provide the message.
“It’s given an opportunity to the student leaders to use their gifts in this unique way,” McDonald said.
Many students afraid to lead in front of the larger chapel crowd find the ability to take on leadership roles in this more intimate setting. McDonald encourages students to contact her if they would like to play an instrument, sing, read or plan for a future service.
Beyond leadership opportunities, Spanish chapel provides a unique environment for the native Spanish speakers of NW.
MaKayla Tjernagel, a student who grew up in Spain, said, “It is so comforting and special for me to be able to worship in Spanish. My first language to worship God in has always been Spanish, and when I moved here to Orange City, it was hard for me to adapt to worshiping God in English.”
Contrary to what some may think, Spanish chapel is very inclusive of non-Spanish speakers. The services are only a brief 20 to 30 minutes. The songs are often well-known or easy to learn, and there is never an expectation to speak or sing. Observing the worship service is encouraged.
Tjernagel said, “God wants us to feel uncomfortable and to embrace and experience all of the different ways we can praise Him.”
Spanish chapel is a very accepting place to build cultural bridges and experience multicultural worship.
Explaining the future benefit of Spanish chapel, McDonald said, “Students who have participated in Spanish chapels have gone on to bring cross-cultural worship experiences into their churches after leaving Northwestern.”
Talking about multicultural worship, she said, “It’s a vivid picture of John’s description of heaven in Revelation 7, when a multitude of every nation, tribe, people and language stood before the throne of God worshiping Him together.”
The remaining Spanish chapels this semester are Wednesday, Oct. 16 in the choir room; Wednesday, Nov. 20 in Christ Chapel; and Wednesday, Dec. 4 in the choir room. Some of the speakers will be Mimi Sandbulte and members of the Tjernagel family.
The Spanish chapel team hopes more students will step out of their comfort zones this semester and pursue God in this fresh, multicultural way.