Praise and Worship needs a change of scenery

Georgia Lodewyk—Staff Writer

Contributed Photo

I used to be an avid attendee of Praise and Worship. Every Thursday night. 10:00 p.m. It was one of my favorite events; a stress-reliever, a homework break, a time of prayer and worship I desperately needed by the end of my week. Praise and Worship has always been a refreshing change of pace, a time to step away from the BUAD or bio homework, and a reminder of why it is that we are all here. It is one of my favorite parts of Dordt University’s campus life and community.

So, what has changed for me? It’s not the music or the people there. It’s the atmosphere. As much as I want to love the times for worship we hold every Thursday in the campus center, there’s something standing in my way, and it’s usually the 6’5” basketball player in front of me.

Now I know it’s not his fault; he can’t help being a giant any more than I can help that I’m 5’5” on a good day. But that’s just the point. Too often when there’s Praise and Worship in the Campus Center, shorter people like me cannot see from the back, cannot see from the middle of the crowd, and cannot see unless we’re in the first three rows. It is crowded, too. I’m almost touching shoulders with the people to my right and to my left. Sometimes, this can feel claustrophobic, and it makes the campus center a less inviting place for people who are new to Praise and Worship. It is almost like going to a church when all the pews are full; newcomers are less likely to feel welcomed when there’s not even a spot for them to stand.

The back of the Campus Center is still set up with tables from the grille. I love the idea of encouraging people to visit and congregate, but the people who are shoved to the back of Praise and Worship are forced to hear a mix of the conversations behind them and the worship on the stage that they, most likely, cannot even see.

Yes, I know, I could just go to the second floor of the Campus Center and watch from there. I could stop complaining because the Campus Center is still a million times better than the Jacob’s Ladder in the Science Building. 

I remember back to last year. There weren’t many positive changes that came from COVID-19 regulations, quarantines, and mask policies, but one thing I loved was getting to have Thursday Night Praise and Worship in the B.J. Haan. The space felt open and inviting, rather than crowded and compact. People could sit, stand, and have more room to worship freely. 

I wondered if my view on the B.J. Haan might put me in the minority, believing that most students preferred to keep Praise and Worship in the centrally-located Campus Center. 

In a poll of over 250 Dordt undergraduate students— men and women, underclassmen and upperclassmen, athletes and musicians, results split almost in half. Forty-eight percent wanted to keep Praise and Worship in the Campus Center, while 52 percent wanted it moved to the B.J. Haan.

Students who supported a change to the B.J. Haan said they were looking for a less-crowded and more spacious atmosphere, similar to chapels in the B.J. Haan on Wednesdays. Some music students worry moving it permanently to the B.J. Haan will be using the space for something other than what it is intended for, hindering the auditorium’s capabilities to surround and project well for future band and choir concerts. Other students simply like the closeness and community-building aspects of the campus center better. 

“The informality draws a lot of people in and in some ways is more convenient,” sophomore Amanda Santjer said. “I don’t think worship should ever feel like a concert, and in some ways the B.J. Haan gives off that sort of atmosphere.”

Ultimately, the purpose of Praise and Worship is exactly that: a place for students to gather and be united by shared faith. But the question is, how do we, as a campus community, create the most welcoming environment for the most people?

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