Campus News

Chapel now optional for students in final semester

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New this school year, seniors in their last semester at Bethel College will no longer be required to attend chapel. Bill Bemis, the assistant director for student development, said that the new rule was decided last year. The idea was passed around to faculty and staff, and eventually they decided to put it into place. The new rule, which is printed on page 177 of the student planner/handbook, was written up by Kent Eby. It states that “chapel attendance for students in their final semester prior to graduation shall be optional, although strongly encouraged.” “He made a pretty good statement for it,” Bemis said, in regards to the way Eby worded the new policy. In addition to the rule change, the number of “chapel skips” that students are allowed has raise from six skips per semester to nine. The reason for both rules’ amendments, however, is the same. “There are a lot more valid reasons for students asking for chapel skips,” Bemis said, citing internships, and jobs that students have acquired to help fund their tuition. This isn’t the first change to chapel attendance rules.  Two years ago, it was decided that when a student attends a Vespers service on a Wednesday at 9 p.m., that chapel will count as a replacement for any chapel that the student has skipped. Before that decision was made, only a chapel that was missed within the same week could be replaced by a Vespers service. The decision to allow nine chapel skips rather than six was announced in chapel, but the decision to make last-semester chapel services optional for seniors was not. “I don’t think it has a negative effect,” said senior, Hope Swanson. She added that it does make Bethel more like her peer institutions. Zach Castillo, a senior, agreed. “I don’t think it will have a very large effect on seniors,” Castillo said. “Much of their college identity has already been shaped.” Others were surprised by the change. “I think it’s weird,” said senior Stephanie Kingma. “I just expected that everyone would go to chapel.” Bemis said that eventually the school hopes to set up a system in which the chapel attendance is recorded on each student’s myBethel account as soon as they’ve swiped in to chapel. They are currently working with the I.T. department to make that happen. Students who have any issues with chapel attendance are still encouraged to talk with Bemis or Jane Hogue in the Student Development Office. “Chapel is still the heartbeat of Bethel,” Bemis said. “That’s not going to change.”
Shawn Holtgren leads the chapel band in worship at a chapel service at Bethel. As of this year, chapel will be optional for graduating seniors in their final semester.
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