Written by Gabriel Huff and Maren Bonham.
Harding held its first week of in-person chapel this week, marking the first time the University has conducted a physical chapel since March 2020.
Beginning Feb. 8, students and faculty attended in-person chapel in eight small sections spread throughout the week with each student required to attend two sessions.
The University is using an app called Spotter to track attendance through Bluetooth beacons.
“When you enter a location, say the [Rhodes-Reaves Field House], the app and the beacon talk, and the time entered is recorded,” Keith Cronk, CIO and senior vice president of Harding, said. “Then when you leave the location, it records what time you left the location.”
Because the app functions by connecting to a present beacon, it will not track students outside of the designated locations, Cronk said.
“To work correctly, you do need to ensure Bluetooth and location services are turned on,” Cronk said. “Of course, you can turn them on before you enter and turn them off after you leave if you want to. The system does not track you. It only records when you enter and leave a location at the times you are meant to be there, at the chapel.”
Senior Zach Powers said attending chapel was nostalgic. Since this spring semester is his last semester at Harding, he was happy to be able to enjoy chapel again.
“Having chapel was something I associate with going to Harding,” Powers said. “It was important to me to get to have this Harding experience as I’m finishing because I got to have that when I started as well.”
While some students are getting to attend chapel again before they leave Harding, others are experiencing chapel for the first time at the University, such as freshman Melaney Binkley, who said she really enjoyed her chapel experience.
“For this semester, I’m really looking forward to the lessons,” Binkley said.
Chapel will also be produced and recorded so those who cannot attend in person can watch it later on different social media platforms.
“My part of the chapel is to broadcast it professionally so others can watch it later if wanted,” Director of HU16 and Videoworks Mark Prior said.
Dr. Greg Laing, assistant professor of English, said Harding is getting back to where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“As much as the world has changed because of COVID, there are some deep principles that haven’t changed at Harding,” Laing said. “We recognize that this is still who we are, and we’re gonna seek ways we can get back to them as fast as we can. And that to me is a beautiful thing. I’m glad we’re doing it.”
Junior Abby Maguffee, head of the Student Association chapel committee, said many people worked to make in-person chapel available this semester. She said chapel is focusing on Richard J. Foster’s book titled “Celebration of Discipline” throughout the rest of the semester. The theme for the first week of chapel was meditation.
“I hope that everyone, whether they choose to go to in-person chapel or [online] chapel, is able to get the experience … of having a community that’s very [spiritually] uplifting,” Maguffee said.