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Chapel still changing throughout years

Aug. 23, 2004

By KARI ANN KAYWORTH, contributor

Over the past 159 years, students have participated -- sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes not -- one of Baylor's longest running traditions: Chapel.

When the Chapel program began in May 1846, daily attendance was required for students, faculty and staff.

When Fred Hulme, now a senior lecturer in information systems at Baylor, attended the university in 1968 he was required to go to Chapel two days a week for four semesters, he said.

Hulme's parents attended Baylor in the 1940s when the Chapel attendance requirement was stricter.

He said they were surprised that the standard had been lowered for their son.

Today, nearly 40 years after Hulme was a student, students are only required to go to Chapel on Mondays and Wednesdays for two semesters.

Chapel Fridays improved

In fall 2003, Baylor added a new requirement for incoming freshmen called Chapel Fridays.

According to Todd Lake, dean for university ministries, Chapel Fridays was Baylor's effort to create a Freshmen Experience Class.

"Baylor was one of the last major universities without such a chance for freshmen to spend time each week with each other and with a faculty or professional member in a small group setting," Lake said.

Lake said improvements to the Chapel Fridays program will include increased training of leaders and revamping of the curriculum.

The changes are based on suggestions from student and leader surveys.

Behavior remembered

Student behavior has been one of the most memorable parts of Chapel, Hulme said.

When students assemble at Waco Hall, there is a tendency to misbehave, Hulme said.

Although students slept in Chapel, they were not disruptive, said Hulme.

"Eighteen and 19-year-olds haven't changed much," Hulme said.

Jennie McCain, a Tulsa junior, said "A lot of people slept through Chapel, but at least everyone stayed relatively quiet."

McCain remembers an incident in Chapel during the spring semester of 2003 when Lake was on stage introducing a speaker. A NoZe brother suddenly walked up from the crowd, handed Lake a ping-pong paddle, then walked away.

According to McCain, everyone thought it was funny at first, but no one really understood the joke until several ping-pong balls dropped from the rafters onto Lake's head.

Despite the harassment, Lake still thinks Chapel behavior has improved overall.

"One former speaker told me that he was given a red ball and

told to throw it at a student if he caught them talking," Lake said. "But when we have Chapel speakers back who haven't spoken in years, like Grant Teaff, they always comment on how well-behaved Chapel students are."

Chapel diversity appealing

Behavior often is a reflection of the interest students have in the Chapel guest.

One of the goals of Chapel has been to make it more varied, said Lisa Garrett, an administrative assistant who schedules Chapel speakers.

"We already know we can't please all of the students," Garret said. "If we make Chapel as diverse as possible we are pleasing everyone at least some of the time."

Chapel speakers this semester offer a wide array of entertainment, inspiration and intellectuals, Garrett said. Guests for this fall include Ballet Magnificant, the Zambian Choir, the Gospel Gangsters, Jimmy Dorrell of Mission Waco, President Robert B. Sloan Jr., Andrew Peterson, Fred Lynch, Kathleen Kern, Scott James, and Stanton Jones. Garrett said she tries to alternate every Chapel between speakers and entertainers.

According to Hulme, Baylor pays more attention to the relevance of the speakers now than it did when he attended Baylor.

Chapel focused more on lectures and campus information but now includes entertainment.

Chapel part of Baylor 2012

More improvements are in line for the Chapel program adhering to Baylor 2012 Imperative VI: "Guide all Baylor students through academic and student life programming to understand life as a stewardship and work as a vocation."

Changes in Chapel are steps to fulfilling Baylor 2012.

Baylor 2012 Guiding Convictions states that one goal is to "encourage the integration of Christian faith and the intellectual life."

In order to adhere to the conviction, Lake said, "We are partnering with everyone from the department of journalism to the business and law schools to bring in speakers who help us blur the line between faith and academics."