Robbins Chapel Dedication: Student Perspective
One month ago, on October 29, 2007, the students of Brooks Residential College formally adopted the Brooks College Community Covenant, a statement developed by students for the purpose of expressing the ideals and expectations for each member of our community. During a special ceremony, every student in Brooks College signed his or her name under the Covenant as a symbol of agreement to these collective commitments.
This afternoon, I would like to frame my reflections about Robbins Chapel in regards to its positive effect on our ability as students to live up to the Community Covenant, which reads as follows: "We, the members of Brooks College, seek to live meaningful lives by learning to know and love our Creator, ourselves, and our community. We unite ourselves in the pursuit of intellectual, moral, and spiritual excellence, and we pledge to honor the foundational Christian faith of this institution. We cherish life as a gift and sacred stewardship, and we accept the duty to nurture self-understanding, personal integrity, and authenticity in thought, word, and deed. We commit ourselves to the ideal of charity, embracing the responsibility of life together, offering service without expectation of return, remaining loyal amidst difficulty, and upholding the traditions of our college and university."
With the presence of Robbins Chapel, these high ideals about the purpose of Brooks Residential College are more than just words on a page; indeed, this incredible environment of worship, prayer, and thought allows true community to become a reality.
As we students pursue "intellectual, moral, and spiritual excellence," we need only to look around this chapel at the beautiful stained glass to realize that we are surrounded by the ideals that we should strive to emulate. Students need positive role models from whom virtue is learned, and within Robbins Chapel, such exemplars are plentiful. Upon considering the depictions of King Solomon and Boethius in the "wisdom" window, we realize the vanity of lessons learned in the Baylor Science Building or Hankamer Business School if we do not also seek wisdom from the Lord. As we continue to search for understanding in regards to our own identities and callings, two models of prudence, Ruth and St. Thomas More, guide us in those ever-elusive paradigms for college students, practical judgment and wise decision-making. The images of Moses and Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that the Lord pursues justice with passion, and that we should bear that responsibility as well. Joshua and John Bunyan in the "courage" window exhort us not to lose hope, no matter how many tests we have, or when problems with financial aid seem insurmountable.
In addition to the physical beauty of Robbins Chapel, the prayer that takes place within these walls provides the spiritual foundation for our community through opportunities to "commit ourselves to charity" and "embracing the responsibility of life together," as the Community Covenant states. At 9 AM, as students finally succumb to the beeping of the alarm clock in order to go to class, and as faculty members pour their coffee and prepare their lecture notes for the day, prayers are offered within the walls of Robbins Chapel. The morning service ends with this petition: "Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose, through Christ Jesus our Lord." Such a prayer is said not just for those who offer it, but for all of our various communities: Brooks, Baylor, Waco, Texas, and the world.
Similarly, every evening at 10 PM, this prayer concludes the service: "Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ; rest your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones, shield your joyous ones; and all for your love's sake." Without much difficulty, one can imagine many examples of family, friends, colleagues, and peers that would fall into each of those categories for whom prayers are offered.
In the 24-hour lifestyle of a student, a place of silence and beauty allows us to regain a perspective on the world. Not just at 9 AM and 10 PM, but throughout the day and night, Robbins Chapel facilitates an earnest spirit of prayer, worship, and devotion within Brooks Residential College. My favorite element of Robbins Chapel is the Rose Window, towards which our eyes are directed as we turn to leave. Symbols of the seven liberal arts surround the shield of Brooks College, and we symbolically pass through these images upon our departure. The Rose Window reminds us that the prayer, worship, reflection, and thought that takes place in Robbins Chapel does not stop at the exit; rather, this chapel provides a place for such devotion to begin, with the intent that it will continue to flourish as we proceed out the door and on with the rest of our lives.
For students, as we eat in the Great Hall, play pool in the Junior Commons, study in the College Library, or learn in the seminar room, the presence of Robbins Chapel establishes the spiritual foundation on which our community can flourish. Uncle Bill and Mary Jo, on behalf of the students of Brooks College, thank you for supporting this chapel, in which we learn that by serving our creator, we can in turn better serve each other.