Lexi Schnaser– Staff Writer
As the Dordt community gets back into the rhythm of the school year, one of the biggest questions asked is how events like Chapel and Praise and Worship should look.
These events are usually open to the entire campus—students, staff, and faculty.
However, to accommodate for COVID-19 regulations, only the first two hundred freshmen and seniors to arrive to the B.J. Haan Wednesday morning were able to attend chapel in person. Similarly, only the first two hundred sophomores and juniors were able to participate in person at Praise and Worship on Thursday night. These events kicked off the rotation of students to attend these events.
“We value these worship opportunities as Dordt University.”
Campus Pastor Sam Ashmore said it’s very important for Dordt to make sure these events can still happen.
“There is power in gathered worship with your peers. Chapel is the one time when the whole campus shuts down,” Ashmore said, “We value these worship opportunities as Dordt University because we are part of the kingdom of God and our worship matters.”
Sophomore Celeste Vandermeer appreciated the opportunity to livestream chapel with her friends, as well as attend Praise and Worship in person.
“It was really good to be back in an atmosphere of fellowship and worship because my church had not been meeting in person at all, so this was really my first time back with others,” Vandermeer said.
The decision to put chapel and Praise and Worship attendance on a rotation has been long in the making. Conversations began over the summer between Campus Pastors Aaron Baart and Sam Ashmore, and new director of worship arts and campus ministries, Jeremy Perigo. The initial idea was to do a rotation, but that changed quite a few times as Dordt’s color level changed.
The number of admitted students to these events was determined by the COVID-19 task force team headed by Howard Wilson, the president’s cabinet, and the campus pastors. They took other event attendance, such as sporting events, into consideration as well.
“We all wanted to make sure we are all sending the same message,” Ashmore said.
As people filed into the B.J. Haan for chapel on Wednesday, Ashmore noted how despite the distance and small number of attendees, it still felt full.
“Everyone was spread out so the whole [place] was filled,” Ashmore said. “Not one section was empty. It was full, not with numbers, but in spirit and in students being back together again.”
Thursday night Praise and Worship, traditionally held in the Grille, moved to the B.J. Haan as well to accommodate for the large attendance.
Senior Damon Groen, who also serves as a Praise and Worship leader, noted the change.
“Being in the B.J. Haan makes everything seem bigger,” Groen said, “But it doesn’t change the DNA of the thing, just the location of it.”
There are some changes to the format of worship. Instead of singing three or four songs in a row there may now only be two songs together. There are breaks of quiet, reflective prayer, followed by a few more songs to keep in line with COVID-19 regulations.
Relationally, there are also changes in how these events will look for students. Groen
“The message I got from praise and worship was how God is with us in change,”
recognizes the challenges of only having a fraction of the student body present at Praise and Worship as an opportunity to build community.
“It de-individualizes everything,” Groen said, “In this situation, we have a select few who can be there so others can ask what is was like. We can share our individual and communal experiences with the Lord.”
Experiences and opportunities look different for each person. For some, this looks like telling their friends not in attendance about their experiences. For Vandermeer, she felt more comfortable worshipping expressively in the different atmosphere of the B.J. Haan.
“The message I got from Praise and Worship was how God is with us in change,” said Vandermeer. “It is hard to go through all these changes that we can’t control. Being reminded you are not in control is hard, but it is important because it’s true. Someone so much greater than you is in control.”