Students reflect on role of LOFT and chapel services

Photo courtesy Rick Treur.
Photo courtesy Rick Treur.

Calvin students reflect on the role worship services on campus, such as daily Chapel and LOFT, should play in their spiritual lives.

While many students appreciate daily opportunities to join the Calvin community to grow spiritually, others find they must leave campus for sufficient growth.

Senior Josh Choi expressed some concerns he has with Chapel and LOFT.

“Chapel and LOFT has not been a place of spiritual growth [for me], but largely has been a place of spiritual dryness … to put it quite bluntly, it’s draining rather than encouraging or uplifting. I have to get out of the Calvin community.”

He explained that he does not see the Holy Spirit active in worship at Chapel or LOFT.

“At Calvin, there has never been a time where I’ve experienced the Holy Spirit coming and leading people, something that happened at my church,” Choi said.

He encouraged students to look at other options for worship alongside options on campus.

“I recommend that students at Calvin don’t just go to Chapel and LOFT and make that their spiritual life, but get plugged in at a church outside of Calvin.”

Senior Josiah Fogle agrees with Choi and searches for spiritual growth outside of LOFT and chapel services.

“During Chapel [break], there’s a prayer group that I go to which is smaller and more intentional, and it just feels more personal,” Fogle said. “Instead of LOFT, now I go to Evensong which feels more personal, and I just don’t feel that attachment to LOFT and Chapel.”

However, not all students share these opinions. Some find the worship services on campus an important part of their spiritual life — irreplaceable by those outside the Calvin community.

“LOFT is unique; you are worshipping with people you pass on the path,” senior Abby Buursma said. “Also, I feel Pastor Mary is speaking into my life every Sunday. I think she understands what students are going through.”

Senior Josiah Gorter also finds importance in Calvin worship services, although he does not replace his primary church with them.

“Though I mainly get my spiritual nourishment from student-led Bible study, I attend both Chapel and LOFT since I can be a part of the larger Calvin community and worship together with a larger part of the body of Christ,” Gorter said. “Also, Pastor Mary is the coolest,” he added.

Even among students who worship regularly at Calvin services, most see the role of LOFT and chapel as an addition to spiritual community outside of Calvin, not a replacement.

According to Paul Ryan, associate chaplain for worship, over 80 percent of students who attend LOFT attend a local church regularly and less than 20 percent see LOFT as a primary church.

Choi emphasizes that he was able to find the spiritual growth he needed in a Grand Rapids church.

“Through the church I attend, I got plugged into mentorship and discipleship programs, both of which have kept me accountable as a Christian at Calvin,” Choi said. “My church has ultimately been the one that points me to the Bible and consequently points me to God.”

LOFT and Chapel services remain committed to their mission regardless of whether students attend as their sole worship community of the week or engage outside of Calvin.

The Chapel Committee mission states: “The purpose of daily Chapel is to express, nourish and shape our life and mission together before God as a Christian academic community through the practices of Christian worship.”

Ryan expanded on the mission, highlighting how LOFT can be beneficial for students whether or not they are involved in a church outside of Calvin.

“LOFT provides students at Calvin [the opportunity] to be the church together in their community. It helps students to form good habits when they’re not students anymore. They can learn to listen well to sermons, and be exposed to a wide variety of musical liturgies,” Ryan said.

“Chapel shapes students into people who praise, see the world through the different songs, understand that we are a part of a much broader church and express their faith.”

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