Friday, April 10, 2009

University should hold outdoor chapel services more often

Thursday, April 9, was one of my favorite chapel services I've ever attended at Lee.

It was the first chapel service I've ever seen held outside in Alumni Park.

Students all received e-mails from Campus Pastor Jimmy Harper that read as follows:

"Please join us for a wonderful outdoor chapel experience today, April 9, 2009 at 10:40 am. We have decided that the weather will be warm enough to take today’s chapel service outside to Alumni Park."

When I went out to the park to take pictures of the unique service, I immediately realized that this was the opportunity to get some of the best chapel photographs possible. There's color, there's light. After all, the shots aren't condemned to be the traditionally dull blends of orange and brick with a speaker's arms in the air or a student texting in their seat.

In reflection, however, I've recognized that the benefits of color and light stretch far beyond the photographer's camera.

The powerful combination reaches into the soul of worshipers and enhances the chapel experience more than anything that could be done on a stage in a dark room.

When Lee University students think of the physicality of chapel, the large but gloomy Conn Center and Dixon Centers come to mind.

The rooms are giant cavities held prisoner to artificial light, numbed and confined by ugly walls, cages of worship.

God created light, color, air, grass... and that environment is missing from the traditional chapel service.

Churches constructed in decades past place such an emphasis on light and color: stained-glass windows. The sun's natural light flows into the sanctuary and is further beautified by a prism that witnesses to God's goodness.

Conn and Dixon Centers were built without windows, and therefore without beauty.

Light and color welcomes. It invites. It encourages. It awakens. It breathes fresh life.

That's why I believe so many students were so excited to have chapel in the park on Thursday.

It wasn't change for change's sake. It was a return to a more natural worship experience – one that didn't feel contrived or restricting, but whole and beautiful.

I encourage you to show your support of outdoor chapel services when the weather permits.

Please e-mail Campus Pastor Jimmy Harper today at to encourage the university to hold larger chapel services outdoors when possible. Even if you're reading this months from the date of its publication, please take the time to let the chapel office know how much outdoor services are appreciated.

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

What you wrote really amazed me. I sometimes do the light design during chapels. It's interesting because it seems like there was once a time where creativity, color, and sunlight all reigned in the chapels. There is still a little peice of paper giving 5 rules for the light designer, and 1 of them is "be creative!" yet now it seems like creativity is unwanted in the lights for chapels. No color is allowed except for U-church.

One thing that may be an interesting thing to write about, if you could get some research on it, is the skylight in the Conn center. Did you know there used to be a giant skylight all behind that blue curtain alcove? They put a little office-roof thing up there to block out the light now, you can still see light seeping through the gaps in the tiles. It's amazing to me to think that there was once a time where sunlight shone in the Conn center!

I think there's alot of stuff we could improve indoors yet nobody can beat God's Glory on a nice, warm, sunny, spring day.

- Gabriel Wayne