Written by Watkins Kelly
Harding University’s administration announced multiple changes to chapel in the first week of the semester after students returned to campus.
Among the changes was the introduction of a student praise team to occasional chapel services. Dean Logan Light said he felt the praise team added to the variety of experiences that chapel could offer.
“We need chapel to be relevant, engaging and intentional for our student body,” Light said. “That was the language that was brought to me when I was asked to step into this role.”
Light previously served as the assistant dean of Student Life for the 2021-22 school year and transitioned into the role of assistant dean for Campus Life and Chapel Programs this semester.
Junior Jackson Samuel sang on the praise team on Tuesday, Aug. 23, the first time the group participated in a chapel service. Samuel said he believed the service engaged the student body in a new way and emphasized chapel as a time to join together in worship.
“It felt more like what chapel should be, a time to serve God and sing his praises,” Samuel said.
The administration also reworked chapel announcements, now with designated days for certain types of announcements. Each Monday will have time set aside for updates from the Student Association, while personal announcements will primarily occur on Thursdays via pre-recorded videos. Light encouraged students to regularly check the chapel announcements section of Pipeline, which is currently being updated.
University President Mike Williams said that as changes to chapel were considered, the administration looked at many different factors, but ultimately hoped to increase a unity of purpose and spirit among the student body.
“We all recognize the centrality of chapel and the huge opportunity it presents,” Williams said. “The question we ask ourselves is: ‘Can chapel be framed from a position of gratitude?’ And for most of us, what we are grateful for are the people sitting beside us.”
The changes did not just affect the on-stage programs, but also the general chapel environment. Cosmetic changes — including renovations to the lobby bathrooms, new screens, lighting equipment and podiums — were some of the first things students noticed on the first day of the semester.
On Wednesday, Aug. 24, Light and Executive Vice President Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson spoke to the student body regarding additional changes to chapel programs.
Thompson announced a new attendance and seating system to be implemented in the coming weeks. He also previewed alternative chapel programs for the spring semester, called breakout chapels, that would allow students the opportunity to attend smaller chapel programs whose topic was of interest to them.
Also among the changes, the University temporarily suspended the streaming of chapel services through Harding’s website.
Williams said as current and future changes are implemented, he hopes students will take advantage of feedback opportunities and trust the administration will listen.