Editors Note: To increase opportunities for spiritual development, more than 11 different chapels are offered at Oklahoma Christian University. Assistant Features Editor Cynthia Knox organized this series to provide insight and encourage attendance of alternative chapels available to students. These stories were executed by students in a sophomore-level journalism class. We would like to thank the sponsors for their willingness to share their chapel with the Talon. If you attend this chapel, please comment and share your experience with the Oklahoma Christian community.
After years of helping students understand the concept of relationships, Oklahoma Christian University Professor Mel Latorre began to sponsor the Faithfully Ever After chapel on campus; an alternative to “Big Chapel.”
“I started this chapel nearly two years ago now after years of providing my advice,” Latorre said. “During my time as a youth minister and mission worker before teaching at Oklahoma Christian, it became clear to me we don’t do relationships well.”
In the two years since starting Faithfully Ever After, Latorre said he has seen attendance increase to an average of 65 to 70 people every Thursday. He said attendance is a sign of how open the subject matter and conversation are every week.
“What put it over the top for me was one student who talked to me told me to teach about [relationships],” Latorre said. “So, I did it. I thought that it could help people to have a smaller and more conversational chapel to help with relationships and made it happen… and it’s not just for people who are dating, married or having issues with their relationship. It is for anybody who relates to people and wants to be better at it.”
Freshman Cameron McDaniel said he has been attending Faithfully Ever After since he first arrived on campus.
“At the time, it was just something me and my then-girlfriend were interested in,” McDaniel said. “Now that she is my fiancé, we are using it as a guideline and information resource heading into marriage.”
Latorre speaks most of the time, giving students the chance to reflect on his lessons. He begins with questions key to the topic before opening the floor to students and answering any questions they may have.
“It is much smaller and feels far more intimate,” junior Blake Bauer said. “Everyone has a chance to interact with the speaker and contribute to the discussion, instead of just sitting and listening silently.”
Both McDaniel and Bauer said the intimate feel of the chapel made them feel closer to Latorre and others in the group, which led them to become frequent attenders.
“One time, there was a discussion over resolving arguments in couples specifically,” Bauer said. “After a while, the speaker invited some couples in the audience to come and discuss their arguments. It was pretty insightful. Maybe it wasn’t some big spiritual enlightenment or moment, but it was definitely uplifting to get a glimpse into those growing relationships.”
Whether they come as a break from bigger chapels or to try and learn something about relationships, Latorre said he is ready to try and play a role in every student’s life.
“The essence of it is the same as big chapel,” Latorre said. “How can we do relationships better? Stay as practical as possible. It has gone from your average topics like confidence and how do you know you are in love to deeper conversations about heading off potentially toxic behaviors and practices.”
Every semester, Latorre has a list of topics he wants to run through in chapel, to make sure students think as they get into, maintain or think about potential relationships.
“The initial response was so strong compared to what I thought that I just wanted to keep it going,” Latorre said. “I’m not saying anything particular, but what I do say is always in the hope to open up conversation with the students.”
On Feb. 1, Latorre talked about how to “affair proof” one’s relationships and improve oneself for others in Faithfully Ever After.
“It really hit close to home,” McDaniel said. “It really opens your eyes and helps you realize that you have to be good for yourself before you can be good for others. It helped me forgive myself and is already helping my relationship.”
When he first considered creating the chapel, Latorre said he thought to name the event ‘Happily Ever After,’ but decided against it after thinking on the meaning behind the phrase.
“I went with ‘faithful,’ because ‘happy ever after’ is sometimes a negative thing,” Latorre said. “It can give unrealistic expectations and make people think they don’t need to work on their relationships or keep faithful. I want to make sure people know their strengths and weaknesses in their relationships and what they need to do to improve each aspect of them.”
Faithfully Ever After takes place every Thursday at 11 a.m. in Scott Chapel.