Through the Pandemic: A New Kind of Worship at Gordon College
If you attend a Christian College, chances are…. you may have a chapel requirement. This is the case for Gordon College, a small, Christian campus nestled into the North Shore coastline.
Due to the pandemic, after a lot of consideration and time gone by, Gordon made the tough and careful decision to resume for the fall semester, including its chapel services.
The new safety protocols put in place by the school and extended faculty have given Gordon a top spot as one of the many colleges along the North Shore to have the fewest recordings of COVID-19 cases.
These safety measures have also impacted the student’s attendance of chapel, providing the students with a more outdoor as well as virtual experience this past semester.
Campus chaplain and Gordon-Conwell Seminary graduate, Bob Whittet, sure has had his work cut out for him. Planning chapel in light of COVID was not what any of us expected. Whittet spoke positively about the new and “COVID approved”, virtual chapel services.
“It’s been pretty encouraging. We’ve had some good interaction and some good comments from students when they submit online. They’re basically letting us know that they’re there and they’ve expressed appreciation for a number of the speakers,” Whittet says.
Whittet also expressed his approval of the chapel services Gordon had outside during some of the earlier, warmer months at the beginning of the semester.
“Being outside was actually sort of fun! I thought it felt more like a festival. It was so unique. Each of the pastors who have spoken here during the course of the fall, what really excited them was speaking to actual human beings. For the most part, they’ve all been staring at screens preaching sermons,” Whittet said.
As Whittet expressed his opinion on both the outdoor and virtual, COVID- style chapel, some students expressed a different kind of feedback. Some found it harder to concentrate as well as really receive the message due to this new norm. Rachael Shek, a rising senior at Gordon College, said outdoor chapel made it harder to concentrate on the message.
“I think outdoor chapel has been really hard because its very weather dependent,” says Shek. “In the beginning of the year, I remember I would go to chapel but it was super hot out. It was super hard to focus because its hot, the sun’s in your face, and there’s no shade to sit in. I’m super distracted by covering the sun from my eyes. Also, since everyone is spaced out, you’re super far from the stage and it’s super hard to pay attention.”
Although this new breed of chapel has been difficult for some, Gordon has made student health their top priority. Chapel may have been hot outside or hard to sit through online, but it has kept Gordon as a safe haven for its students. Emma Stone, also a rising senior at Gordon College, said virtual chapel is a useful way to help students engage in spiritual reflection.
“I think that having an option of chapel online has been obviously a good resource for students in this current time as well as overall,” Stone says. I think you do have to pay a little bit more attention when you’re watching it online because you do have to write a little summary even though it is short you actually have to like, make sure you coherently understand what you're saying to write something.”
Stone also said that virtual chapel encourages students to pay attention a little bit more than if chapel took place within the chapel itself.
“When you go in person, you can sit there and scroll on your phone, tap (your Gordon ID) and leave and you’ve got the credit. There’s kind of like a balance, but when you go in person its obviously a different experience, especially with worship. You’re not just sitting there watching other people sing, you are actually participating. You at least have to be there and be a part of it.”