Thursday, October 18, 2007

And you think chapel on Adventist campuses is not well attended?

So I went to a chapel service at Dartmouth College today.

Originally a school to train missionaries to reach Native Americans, this Ivy League School is very secular now. But I still didn't expect to encounter what I did at the service.

I found out about the weekly service when I walked around the campus last week. A sign outside Rollins Chapel says, "Weekly chapel service, Thursdays at 12:30 PM. All are welcome." I felt like I qualified for the "all," so I returned this week. Running a few minutes late, I noticed a lone bike sitting up against the outside wall. I walked up to one of the massive gothic doors, swung it open and, to my surprise, saw that the chapel was empty.

But then I heard something - someone speaking. So I walked through the dark lobby toward the sanctuary, only to realize that the service was being held in one of the side alcoves. When I rounded the corner, I looked, and to my utter shock, there was only a handful of people sitting in the wooden chairs, listening to the chaplain give his weekly address.

Sitting down in the back row, I counted the number of individuals there. Twelve - besides myself and the chaplain.

Twelve! In a school of 6000 students and almost 700 faculty, there were only 12 people in the whole building. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I wasn't expecting thousands, but I was expecting more than a handful, too.

It's sobering. College campuses are the bastions of secularism - especially those that pride themselves on being academically elite, like the Ivy League schools in this part of the country. But some how, some way, they've got to be reached.


Rondi said...

That really is shocking...

Was it at least an interesting talk?

holamickey said...

Shawn - it was good to hear from you tonight. I pray God continues to bless your transition there. And I look forward to passing your way sometime.
A statement that caught my attention this morning in my devotions - "They don't call upon God." Sounds like the chapel. I hope you belted out an amen
Courage bro.

Bill Cork said...

It needs to be kept in mind, though, that at Dartmouth, as at other colleges, there are campus ministries and, in the town of Hanover, college churches of various denominations. There are 25 religious groups on campus. But no Adventist Christian Fellowship. Are you close enough that you could start one? :-)

carpenterale said...

Hey good Shawn, I know that you don't mean it, but there is an underlying sense of self-righteousness in this post. To extrapolate on the religiosity of the student body and faculty from a chapel visit seems more than logically warranted.

Bill has a good point about various forms of religious expression on campuses these days. We know that chapel attendance would drop at Andrews if it weren't required and if I remember all the noise in the back during services, people in pews certainly doesn't represent deep spirituality.

I posted a news item on the Spectrum Blog a few months back about Adventist triplets all graduating from Dartmouth. They didn't mention chapels but they did appreciate several of their professors who encouraged them in their faith and values.

As an Adventist who attends classes at both a private religious and a public institution, I've found really interesting examples of powerful religious belief in unlikely places.

Remember Elijah's repeated solipsism in I Kings 19:10 and 14

Elijah replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

And God's reply in v. 18:
"Yet I have seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."

Shawn Brace said...


Thanks for the post. I'm glad that you have pointed this out. I didn't mean to sound self-righteous at all, and I apologize if this is how I sounded. I certainly know that chapel attendance doesn't equate to spirituality!! I was simply making an observation, one that surprised me a little.

Thanks for your thoughts, though, Alex, I appreciate your voice of caution.