College Week: Chapel

If you have a Pavlovian response of standing to your feet every time you hear the opening notes of the Doxology, chances are you went to Fundy U.

Since mandatory attendance to regular weekly church services don’t provide nearly enough time for indoctr…er…edification, Fundy U also provides its students with the opportunity to hear daily sermons from whatever preachers the president happens to be friends with this week. Many students also know this daily occurance by another name: “naptime.”

Since chapel services are not usually broadcast to the public like other services and have few visitors in attendance, it’s a perfect opportunity for the fundy preacher du jour to unleash a holy torrent of full bore crazy upon his listeners. Horrific tales of death and dismemberment? Check. Stories about the masturbation habits of the speaker’s teenage son? Yes. (Oh, how I wish that one weren’t true!) Insinuations that most of his listeners are probably Satan-worshiping whores who only came to a fundamentalist college to corrupt his offspring who are the only three good children left on the planet? Yea, Verily.

But amongst the endless alliterated instructions on Finding God’s Mysteriously Lost Will For Your Life (without which you’re totally screwed) and warnings about Amnon’s friend Jonadab lies a much subtler purpose in chapel services — they are the most direct conduit for the administration to use a kind of spiritual coercion on the behavior of their students. A single uncontested voice speaking with conviction is the perfect medium for authoritarian re-education.

When a pastor delivers a message from behind the sacred desk at least some percentage of the student body will take him seriously and go carry out his bidding. All that remains for the administration to determine is what action they want from the student body today. Whether it’s a carefully constructed message on why God would never, ever want you to leave Fundy U, a drive for votes in a local election, or a plea for students to turn in their roommates to the deans office for real or imagined wrongs, by a skillful use of the chapel speaker the leadership can be sure that they will get a decent return on their time investment each week.

Those who manage to sleep in Jesus instead of listening are the lucky ones.

95 thoughts on “College Week: Chapel”

  1. Somehow I ended up as a chapel row moniter – twice. One of these times my row was the last row on the next to last section in the FMA. There were several town students on my row who knew that there was no way I was keeping role. Needless to say they never came to chapel. My friends who sat in the section behind me told me that among the vast hordes of the FMA it was funny to see a row almost empty with a sleeping row moniter.

    I figured that if I ever got in *trouble* over it I was simply going to say, “What did you expect?”

  2. At PCC they would reconcile the absent demerit slips against the list of people who were working or checked in sick.

    If someone was missing and you as the row monitor didn’t write them up, you’d get a note in your mailbox informing you that Joe Q. Student wasn’t in his seat and you failed in your Christian duty to report it.

    They were scary good at stuff like that.

  3. I had the distinction of being a row monitor several times, and being in the first three rows of the FMA three times. The most… unique chapel times were when we had the screens come down on the side and a picture of Sr or Jr appear, and to our wonderment, hear that we were going to hear a recorded chapel message (usually, with Sr, the audio was so old, the microphone was so scratchy that he used, and the fact that he would scream usually meant that you couldn’t understand 94% of it).

    Quote: Many students also know this daily occurance by another name: “naptime.”

    When I was a GA, the fac/staff in the balcony at the FMA also knew it as naptime, seeing as people would be sprawled out up there. 🙂

  4. I didn’t sleep in chapel. I was usually too mad because of the way Scripture was taken out of context (or not used at all). I remember a couple of occasions where my friends had to hold me down to keep me from walking out. I’d spend the afternoon crying on the phone and telling my mom I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d tell her what was taught and she would be appalled. Kinda funny considering my mom is still a fundy.

  5. I never slept through an entire chapel service. I also don’t remember a single thing of value taken from any of them. Often I would leave chapel service thinking “who would join a church w/ him as a pastor”? Or “I hope they are telling the preacher boy classes how wrong that sermon was”. I also anticipated annual sex chapel where they seperated the genders like tender 11 year olds, and explained the joys of a sexless marriage.

  6. @Brandon: I actually enjoyed the days we’d hear an archival sermon from Bob Jones, Sr. He was vastly more entertaining than most of the living people they put behind the pulpit.

    I generally fought the good fight and was able to stay awake, not because I wanted to but because I feared getting in trouble. Some of the watchful watchers were incredibly aggressive, descending upon sleepers from several rows or even sections away as soon as chapel ended.

  7. I remember a classmate from high school who went to BJU with me forwarding me an email exchange between him and his row monitor. The row monitor was questioning my friend’s spirituality because he was falling asleep almost every day in chapel, and my friend was trying to explain to him that he was trying his best to stay awake. Later my friend was diagnosed with a sleep disorder, so he basically hadn’t slept that whole semester.

    I can’t sleep sitting up, so chapel was a huge hassle. Most of time preaching wasn’t going on, it was either political rants, senile ramblings, or justifying the rules of the school. I loved when I had my internship my last semester senior year and could skip chapel/society meeting 3/5 times a week.

    @Brandon I’ve always wondered about the prayer at the end of a recorded Jr/Sr message. What is considered a real prayer if it was a recording and the speaker was long dead?

  8. oh, this is TOO funny. At my college (less strict), we were allowed 10 “chapel cuts” per semester. I remember looking through the list of speakers at the beginning of each semester and trying to recall which were the worst ones. Then I’d “save” my cuts for those days.

    Another time, I was sitting next to a friend, and the speaker was SO boring, we were writing notes to each other. A “holier-than-thou” type behind us came up to us afterwards and told us how disappointed he was in our “behavior” and how we had “hindered his spiritual growth.”

    Then, you had to love the brainwashed kids (as in, my Resident Assistant and her friends, particularly one semester). We were all walking back to the dorm after chapel (the speaker was quite bad that day, and used no Scripture in CONTEXT in the entire message). Of course, the RA and friends were talking in glowing terms on what a blessing the message had been to their lives, and asked my opinion. Being myself, I said “It was horrible. . boring, and not even in context.” I got called into her room a week later–she asked me if “I was sure I was saved.”

    To be fair, since my college was “less fundy” than some of the above-mentioned colleges, there were a good number of in-context, decent messages/speakers throughout the year.

  9. the RA and friends were talking in glowing terms on what a blessing the message had been to their lives

    I got the “don’t question the man of God” lecture from some of my friends when I would critique the message over lunch.

    Oh, and for the record I never, ever slept in chapel or even video chapel.

  10. @ Jordan
    I would doze, then the yelling would wake me up. 🙂

    Were you there for the guy that said from the pulpit, “This is a longhorn sermon- two points and a lot of bull in between.”

    Couldn’t believe it!

  11. I never received a note informing me that I hadn’t marked someone absent. I wouldn’t have cared if I had. According to the bob’s stipulations I shouldn’t have been a row moniter anyway.
    When I wasn’t a row moniter I had a seat in the very back. That was one of the priveleges of working in the Campus Store and having a shift that ended right before chapel, or began right after chapel. At the beginning of each semester I would manipulate my schedule to make sure that I had at least one of those shifts.

  12. I don’t remember any chapel messages being particularly Scriptural. Now, entertaining – that’s a different story. BJU had some dweeb come in and talk about your poor mama, working her fingers to the bone to send you to a great place like BJ and how all she wanted is a letter from you. She’d go to the mailbox, there wouldn’t be a letter from you, she’d say, “Tomorrow, I’ll get a letter tomorrow.” Tomorrow came and no letter, she’d say, “They’re really busy, I’ll get a letter tomorrow.” Her life was full of tomorrows and there was never a letter. Then, one day, she died, which means you’re a day late and a dollar short. What manipulative garbage! They say the post office was really busy for 2 or 3 days after that guy’s “sermon.”

  13. My senior year last semester I was student teaching so I got out of the whole mess for the entire semester. But on a side note another, “you might be from Fundy U” is, “If after 10 years you still find yourself getting out of your set at 10:50 to wander towards the largest auditorium.” or maybe, “if at 11 AM you still find yourself in a panik to ‘make it’ to chapel on time.”

    Another note was that since chapel isn’t really broadcast and is a captive audience you could literally preach heresy. It was noted on another comment, thanks @Jordan for the help of Wood preaching in chapel about Jesus asking Peter, “Lovest thou me?” and Wood saying that the word Jesus used was “eros” Oh my…yet there was never a correction made and Wood was back at it in no time.

  14. Audio chapel messages were the worst! You could almost audibly hear everyone settling down for a nap.

    I never slept in chapel because for some reason I always had a row monitor that actually did their job. I would take notes just to keep mysef from falling asleep…. well, at least I would try… usually I would just doodle.

  15. @Kirsten: Yes! Those prayers at the end were so confusing…do I close my eyes, do I look down, do I stand when he tells me to stand…

    Also, first row in FMA was not all that bad. If you slouched just a bit you’d be completely out of the field of vision of everybody on the platform.

  16. My first year at (hurriedly mumbled fundy college name) they had chapel every other day… still a waste of my time but you could work your schedule around it and get enough credits in to graduate on time. Second year they decided that to build bridges for the college (reason they had speakers in) and indoctrinate the compound’s population – they needed to have chapel every freaking day!

    It sucked for students trying to get in extra credit hours and was the biggest waste of time… because not everyone naps every day! The speakers were for the most part all bizarrely fundamental. I have heard things about groveling in prayer, humbling yourself with the use of sackcloth, various dispensationally inaccurate messages on Israel and the US, lot’s of weird things pulled from the Old Testament that somehow apply to the church and a myriad of rants against other normal churches that escaped the use of scripture and were factually inaccurate.

    Frankly sometimes it was too bizarre to sleep through it – kinda like that accident that is so gruesome you can’t look away.

    Top time wasters in Bible college – chapel time, dorm devotions, room devotions and dorm revivals.

  17. @RJW you said you had 10 chaples cuts per semester. Sounds like you went to Moody Bible? If so what years,. I was there from 96-00

    your brother in gid

  18. Hmm, we never used the Doxology for openers because it was considered too formal.

    Two chapels stand out in my mind: one where the speaker preached about himself. My sister made a mark on notes every time he used the word, “I”. I don’t remember the final tally but it was around 200. Evangelistically speaking, of course. 😉

    The other one was an end-of-the-year chapel when the seniors got to preach. One particular senior preached to the girls for not going out on dates with him or generally giving him the time of day. After all, he “has needs too!” Yeah, that was creepy.

  19. Jess, chapel at BJU was bad enough without having to listen to students deliver sermons. I think that would’ve sent me over the edge. I had a roommate who was disgusted one year after the opera because the mezzo-soprano “wiggled too much.” I said, “It’s called acting.” That’s when I knew I was at the wrong place.

  20. The best chapel was when a fire-and-brimstone preacher came to our high school chapel and preached against the direct-route-to-hell known as “white lightning”. You know you’re from a rural area when you learn how to make corn whiskey from a preacher. Yee-haw!

    /Oddly enough, our school was too sinful for him to send his own children there. We let girls wear pants when it was below 0 degrees outside. SIN!!!!! 🙂

  21. @Dan, that student who preached about his “needs” went into more detail than I recounted here. It really was creepy. They stopped letting all seniors in the Pastoral Theology program preach in chapel after that. Instead, they selected certain ones for that honor.

  22. I’m one of the unfortunate ones who never got to sleep in chapel. For me chapel was a wonderful time to practice my critical thinking, hermeneutical, and exegetical skills, not to mention get caught up on my Bible reading and daydreaming. There was one glorious semester when I managed to get out of chapel for work. Granted that was also the closest I ever came to getting in trouble those four years (I was pulled out of class to go to the Dean of Men’s office – still don’t get that one! – when their was a mix-up on the paperwork), but it was worth it. Where I went seniors were given the option of attending grad school chapel, where they *gasp* preached from the Bible and generally stayed away your typical fundy hobby horses. It was a breath of fresh air. In all I was able to get out of regular chapel for three semesters out of the eight I was there. Three best semesters of my time there. 🙂

  23. i remember chapel at pcc the pic from 1984 is pretty accurate. i wasn’t awake for too many of the messages but i do remember the story of barnhart’s son’s clipboard. i kinda felt sorry for the kid that he was mentioned by his father for such an emabarassing thing. though i often suspected that the illicit JC penny’s catalog pics were dr. barnhart’s

    ahh chapel next to the junior commerce thing was the perfect time for my imagination.

  24. @RobM I also anticipated annual sex chapel where they seperated the genders like tender 11 year olds, and explained the joys of a sexless marriage.

    My fav was when the college vice president’s wife got up and told us how they only did it on Holidays. They had no kids, go figure. I remember thinking at the time, “ew! What the heck is she telling us this for???”
    After we graduated, we told another married couple about it and we all had a good laugh. For quite a while after that, this other couple would send us a card on every holiday that just said, “Happy Holidays”. LOL

  25. Reading all this makes me so glad that my heathenish self went to a state college! But by doing so I have deprived myself of any horror stories to share.

  26. @escapee good stuff! I wish you 2 love birds Happy Holidays as well! 🙂

    As far as catalogues, I remember Jim Schettler talking about a time a Victoria’s Secret catalog arrived and he went into a cold sweat & was shaking. I know lots of hot women in not a lot of clothing, and not something I’d have around, (although wouldn’t have minded thumbing through one or two in college), but who on earth has that kind of a violent panic’ed response to a Victoria’s Secret? I can’t imagine what kind of paranoid relationship you would have to have w/ your wife that one or both of you would feel your marriage was in jeopardy over a Vicotoria’s Secret catalog?

  27. I mastered the art of sleeping without my head drooping. Hey, when you’re up until all hours playing Doom, Warcraft and Heretic shareware, you need to catch up.

  28. I’ve never been to Fundie college (whew! Thank God!) but I remember those Jonadab sermons all too well. We got plenty of those at youth retreats. God forbid those “subtle” friends might actually have valid doubts about Fundyism.

    @escapee: That’s amazing.

  29. At my (mumbled name) fundy college we had chapel three times per week. I was (and still am) able to sleep sitting rigidly upright. I would sleep for a few minutes, wake up and nod or take some gibberish notes and then sleep some more. I had an excuse, I usually worked 12 hour days in addition to the school work that I had to do.
    You had to turn in your notebooks from chapel to prove that you were there and paying attention every so often so I learned to write with my left hand since that made note-taking more interesting. I also learned to write upside down and backwards. To this day I can still do that.

  30. I will NEVER forget the sermon, ” Hold your tongue Heifer!” Yup, I was one of the ones who was right with God because I fought to sit as close to the front as possible. ( Those back row sitter were backslidden of course) On this particular day sitting in the front row did not fare well with me. After 30 minutes of ranting why us women should shut our traps the preacher then pulled out a giant cow tongue and slapped it as hard as he could on the pulpit.Cow tongue juice splattered everywhere including on me. Quite lovely. ( I wish I was kidding you but I am not)
    Oh the joy!

  31. WHY does that pass for Christianity? Isn’t one of the fruits of the Spirit gentleness? Doesn’t 1 Cor. 13 say our good deeds and preaching are NOTHING without love (and then later goes on to say that love is NOT RUDE!!!) Of course, these guys only read the KJV and they probably don’t know what “doth not behave itself unseemly” means. It means “IS NOT RUDE” and calling women heifers and slapping cow tongues around is RUDE. (Sorry for shouting.)

  32. I think @Darrell gets some kind of pleasure from tormenting/traumatizing his readers! These sermons could make the Jackass crew think “now there’s some sick freaks”.

  33. We sang the Doxology at church this past Sunday morning. I had a hard time getting the words out but I guess the fact that we sang it with a guitar fro accompaniment made it a bit easier.

  34. @ I am His Beloved
    Pastor Schettler at PCC did a cow tongue sermon at PCC. It wasn’t aimed at women though, just gossips. It was actually pretty funny and distgusting, I’ve never forgotten it.

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