An Argument for Cyber-Chapel

It is a well-known fact that colleges must offer online courses in order to remain competitive in the 21st-century educational environment. Recently Geneva College has taken its first steps toward cyber-education, but disagreement over how this transition should take place has stymied progress. Much of the problem stems from questions about how to represent Geneva’s traditional Christian liberal arts core in online learning.

Eager to resolve this difficulty and restore Geneva to a path of success in Christian cyber-education, I would like to suggest that the college create an online version of chapel services as one of its first priorities.

Despite the longstanding success of “televangelism” and other forms of mediated worship in the US, the concept of online college chapel services has been surprisingly slow to catch on. In my opinion, this represents an area in which Geneva could be a real pioneer, setting the standard for other Christian colleges to follow for decades to come. Allow me to list just a few of the benefits of this program.

First, online chapel would be designed in such a way to appeal to all learning styles. Capitalizing on the appeal of Christian podcasts and webinars, each chapel session would include a brief video recording along with a prayer forum and a downloadable bulletin. The media-rich experience will literally bring the chapel speaker into students’ laps, while finally honoring the requests of “digital learners” who thrive in front of a screen. Meanwhile, the tiresome affair of “chapel credits” will be administered directly by eLearning, without the problematic traffic jams that have always plagued the end of traditional services.

Second, an online platform would dramatically increase the quality of chapel services as compared with their present incarnation. A recent survey of chapel messages aired at Geneva suggested that only 15% of the speaker’s remarks could be classified as “main points,” with the remaining 75% being merely “supporting details.” Though we wish to commend the preparation time spent by our talented speakers, condensing a sermon into a seven-to-eight-minute “webinar” format will help them increase the density of their main points. An “accelerated” online chapel program could thus be completed in as little as five to six weeks.

Some have raised concerns about psalm-singing during the online chapel service, but it is this writer’s opinion that this optional part of worship is unlikely to be missed by many viewers. To clearly indicate the end of the service, however, each webinar would close with Dr. Kickasola’s recording of Psalm 117B (though most students will certainly have already closed the browser window at this point).

Third, online chapel would provide much-needed flexibility to students with full schedules, especially engineering majors, whose carefully-calculated course loads (it is said) only allow time for a Brig lunch and one mid-afternoon bathroom break. Overworked students will be refreshed by the ability to do homework during the 10:10 hour in much less crowded quarters than the fieldhouse.

Other creative solutions could be imagined as well: students catching up on a previous chapel webinar while participating in the following week’s “traditional” service, or honors students completing all 11 chapel requirements by the end of the first week of classes. Options like these are proof that the “good stewardship” of one’s time and resources can extend into cyberspace.

My proposal for online chapel services should not be taken as an argument against our traditional chapel program. On the contrary, I hope these will continue to be well-attended as an integral part of the spiritual life of this campus. The desire behind this proposal is simply to provide a new set of options for students with a wide variety of lifestyles. It is disappointing that leading faculty members have opposed efforts to create similar online options for football practice and marching band, but we hope their resistance will be short-lived once they see the success of the chapel program.

In closing, I should note that an exciting innovation like this represents a terrific opportunity to increase community on campus. It is easy to envision such things as “chapel parties” in which groups of students meet on campus to view cyber-chapel sessions together. The spirit of communal worship that will fill campus once this plan has been implemented will be truly inspiring.

*The opinions expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect the views of the Geneva Cabinet.

Monthly Archives