Campus News

Mandatory chapel for seniors reinstated

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Bethel seniors are once again required to attend chapel. Last year, for the first time in Bethel history, seniors in their last semester were no longer required to go to chapel like the rest of the student body.However, that privilege was revoked just before this new semester began. This revocation stems from a simple reason: seniors stopped going to chapel.
Mandatory chapel for seniors reinstated
A September Chapel service in the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center
"The lack of senior presence in chapel was quite evident,” said assistant director for student development Bill Bemis. “The fact that they weren’t showing up at all was disappointing.”What has been done in the past was that students with circumstances requiring them to miss chapel would have to contact Student Life to get an exemption. Last year, the Student Life staff wanted to give seniors as a whole the “mature ability” to make the decision themselves whether to go to chapel or not.“We wanted to give a chance to put in (seniors’) hands the decision to take off to do something important,” said Bemis. “When we saw that they weren’t coming, we saw that perhaps we had given that mature decision-making a little too early.”Bemis emphasized the disappointment felt by the staff. “(We hoped that) students, because of their mature development, would make decisions based on exactly that, but what we saw was a radical lack of attendance,” said Bemis. “They weren’t making decisions based on what we hoped, but rather on, ‘I think I’ll sleep in today.’” This year’s batch of seniors, however, seems to be grown from a different crop. “I support required chapel because it creates a vibrant community … we’re able to learn new ideas more so than if you were not present,” said senior Jacob Busscher. “Nine chapel skips is more than enough.” Another senior, Kate Carr, said, “I think it’s fair because a senior or not a senior, you knew the chapel requirements coming into this school … If you don’t want to go to chapel, you shouldn’t have come to Bethel.” Carr agreed with Busscher, saying again, “Nine chapel skips is more than enough.” Other students proposed alternative solutions. “I think it would be good if the seniors received 15 chapel skips or something like that so we could get our stuff done,” said senior Kristen Wagnerowski." I see how it could be useful.” This strange distinction between classes was noted by Bemis. After sending the mass email informing the senior class that they were, once again, required to attend chapel, he expected a much more heated response. “I, being the focal point of chapel complaints, expected to get a horde of complaints,” said Bemis. “So far, three students have come to talk to me about it, and they all understood the reasoning (after speaking with me).” It seems that no changes to this policy are planned for the future. “Any student that graduates from Bethel has this fact in their diploma … everyone knows that a Bethel student has been presented, three times a week, with some thought-provoking, really high quality speakers that some sleep through, but others get a lot out of,” said Bemis. “Whatever your level of commitment is, we want you to experience it.” If you are a Bethel student who would like to speak with Bemis about this issue, you can contact him in his office on the third floor of the Huffman Administration Building, or send him an email at Here is the email that was sent to seniors about the chapel policy this year. Dear BC Senior: Congratulations on reaching the last step prior to achieving your degree! As you know, last year the college tested a new policy which removed the Chapel attendance requirement from Seniors who were in their final semester prior to graduating.  The intention of this policy was to give these Seniors complete flexibility in managing their time as they transitioned into life beyond college.  It was our stated expectation that these Seniors, having developed a personal commitment to the spiritual formation which they had experienced in their previous years of Chapel attendance, would continue to join the student community in Chapel whenever it was possible.  Unfortunately, our attempt with this new policy revealed that the great majority of Seniors chose to attend infrequently if at all, regardless of whether or not they had other valid priorities.  The Senior student presence in Chapel in SP13 was noticeably lacking, and, quite frankly, the Bethel community missed it. As a result, the college has decided to abandon this policy change and reinstate Chapel attendance as a requirement for Seniors.  All normal exceptions as outlined in the Chapel Attendance Policy still apply; the increased number of Unexcused Absences (9), will remain, and attendance at any Vespers service will still count toward the Chapel attendance requirement. We value your presence and participation in the Chapel experience along with the rest of the Bethel community, and we look forward to what the Lord intends for each of us in this coming year! Sincerely, Student Life
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