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Students speak up about the chapel system: Part 1

*Editor’s Note:

On Dec. 11, 2021, Oklahoma Christian University President John DeSteiguer announced the discontinuation of small breakout chapels. Since then, a petition to bring small chapels back garnered over 1,800 signatures, the University created a chapel task force, and Big Chapel resumed with a new schedule.

To amplify student voices on the issue of the chapel system, the Talon is publishing a series of question and answer interviews with students under the condition of anonymity. These interviews were aggregated by a group of five students in a Journalistic Storytelling course.

Reporter’s Methods, Reasons, and Rules:

I personally knew all of my interviewees, and I interviewed two in person and one over the phone. I interviewed one person in their apartment and one in the Nowlin Center on campus. I wanted people to feel like they could be heard and also understand through my questions that this is not an easy situation to find a solution to. I encouraged those I interviewed to give me real answers instead of spouting out their anger. I wanted to hear their real thoughts, but I also wanted them to be understanding of the situation Oklahoma Christian is in. 

Male, senior

Regarding small chapel, do you feel like you’ve been heard by the University?

“I’m in kind of a unique position—I’m on the task force so I do feel like I’ve been heard. I’ve been able to offer my opinions and I feel like some of them have been incorporated into this new thing that they’re doing this semester.”

Do you think that community groups will fill a small chapel void?

“I am hopeful they can. I don’t think they are going to be a permanent thing because I don’t think it’s sustainable, simply because there’s a lot of factors going into why people go to these things. A big reason before was because they were required to get Kudos, but since there is no requirement, it’s kind of hard to say to go to one.”

How did the decision to get rid of small chapels affect you?

“For me, the effect wasn’t as strong as I would have thought. The main thing I really liked was Mission Chapel. It was where I knew I could go to have genuine community and conversation over an aspect of faith that I feel very geared towards, and I miss that a lot.”

What do you think the solution is?

“There’s so many more variables than I originally thought. You can’t make everybody happy, but I do think that there is a solution that is just buried under a lot of confusion.

I’m really happy with what I’ve seen with Gary Jones leading the task force. I think we’re getting to a solution and I’m confident that we will find one. I think part of the solution comes from the students themselves. There are certain chapel groups that are still meeting in spite of not having their time granted to them for the 11 a.m. hour, and I think that’s really cool. They find it important enough to take the initiative and I applaud that. 

OC and the faculty want to help facilitate a reliable spiritual formation system for students to be able to partake in, but even when it was Kudos, what can OC really do to make you want it? You just have to want it. A lot of the solution comes from the students and the actual desire for church on campus and community with other believers.”

Does only having Big Chapel affect diversity and is a Tuesday/Thursday community group option enough to cover it?

“Big Chapel as we’ve known it was extremely non-diverse, and I think with the task force we’re hoping that Big Chapel going forward is of higher access for diverse groups.

Going forward the hope is that people who are from different backgrounds and people who may have different beliefs have those differences not necessarily talked about in chapel, but that they still get a platform and they still have their voices valued.

I think diversity in Tuesday/Thursday meetings is kind of up to the individual groups to see that through. The intention is to bridge some of that gap from not enough diversity towards enough, but can you ever have enough?”

Male, senior

Regarding small chapel, do you feel like you’ve been heard by the University?

“As a senior, I couldn’t care less. I’m about to graduate and in my head, I’m like ‘Okay, we just have to go to 15 chapels.’ Truly the only reason I ever went to the tiny chapels was because I needed extra Kudos. I think the whole situation was just dumb in the first place. This just made it easier to get Kudos. The whole point of all this now just makes no sense.”

Do you think that chapel can be fixed? If so, how?

“Fixed? Yeah. Just turn everything back to normal. I feel like as long as there is the devotional, a prayer, you’re there 15 minutes or however long and scripture is read and all this church stuff, then it’s fine.”

How did this affect you personally?

“Not at all. If anything, I praised the good God we only have to get 15 Kudos. I don’t care.”

What could OC do if anything to help you grow spiritually?

“If you’re growing spiritually just based off chapel, I don’t think that’s good enough. Some people are out there like, “Oh we need the small chapels!” You shouldn’t only be growing because of a chapel.

I think your walk with the Lord should be a very personal thing and you should take time on your own for that. Fellowship is important but at the end of the day, it’s you and your relationship with the Lord, not your chapel relationship with the Lord. That’s why I don’t really care—it doesn’t affect my walk with God.”

Would you recommend Oklahoma Christian to a friend?

“Yeah, because I found my lifelong best friends here, so no complaints. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Female, senior

Regarding small chapel, do you feel like you’ve been heard by the University?

“I think I’ve been heard but I haven’t been acknowledged.”

Do you think chapel can be fixed? If so, how?

“Yes. I don’t think they can undo the repercussions they’ve created, but I think they can make up for it. They can bring back what the student body wants.”

You said repercussions, what do you think the repercussions are?

“There’s just a sense of divide. There’s tension when people walk into chapel because they know that they have to be in that room compared to when there were small chapels and people had a choice in their faith.”

Do you think community groups will fill the small chapel void?

“I think they took away the groups that people felt safe at, and they chose the groups that OC said are safe.”

What could the University do to solve the issue of small chapel?

“I think they need to acknowledge what they’ve done and give a reason why. We’re not children and they can’t just be like ‘This isn’t happening.’ I think they need to acknowledge and then they need to actively listen, not just assume what we’re gonna say. And they need to compromise.”

Does Big Chapel affect diversity? If so, is the Tuesday/Thursday community group option enough to cover it?

“No amount of small chapels is going to cover everyone’s faith-based experience, but I think reducing small chapels reduces faith opportunities.”

Would you recommend Oklahoma Christian to a friend?

“Yes. I think even though this situation with Kudos frustrates me, there’s other aspects like the friends I’ve made that have made this community so amazing. So even though I’m frustrated with this, in the bigger picture, yes, I would recommend OC to someone. But, I wouldn’t hold it to them to attend—I wouldn’t fight for it.”

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