“Peace be with you!”
The words fill the air, yet a hesitant silence emerges. There is no response, at least not one that can be heard by campus ministers Rev. Dave and Kim Adams.
For the majority of this academic year, the campus ministry elected to host online chapel services as a way to follow COVID safety measures. They had to become comfortable looking into a camera lens instead of the eyes of others and learned to make space for the silences meant to hold responses.
“We definitely missed that communal connection. We say the ‘Lord be with you’ and it’s like we are speaking into an abyss. Just hearing a response back is something that we haven’t had in a year,” Kim explained.
However, with increased vaccinations and careful planning, Dave and Kim have been able to welcome students for in-person chapels once again.
There is only one service remaining this year, which is the Healing of the Nations service held on Monday, April 26.
“It’s a way for us to pray for all the nations of the world. When we have international students there, it reminds us of this network and community that (Concordia) belongs to,” Dave said.
Senior Jessica Skindelien served as a church ambassador before online chapel began and says one of her favorite services of the year is the last one.
“I always really like the end of the year service. There is always this sending off and it’s such a nice way to close out the year and have that fellowship,” Skindelien said.
Kim argues this service is especially important during this time of a global pandemic and the resurgence of the civil rights movement.
“The people’s response in that liturgy can feel like a cry-out or proclamation when they say ‘peace be yours,’” Kim said. “Peace is something we are all longing for right now, and you can’t have peace without justice.”
Dave and Kim are thankful to be able to have this service in person as online chapel has presented challenges this year for both themselves and students.
“Online chapel has been challenging for a couple of reasons, but the first definitely being that it’s hard to be engaged. Sometimes it’s hard to even go because I am online all day long. You get a little Zoomed out,” Skindelien chuckles.
Dave and Kim were aware of this, which influenced their decision to hold only one chapel service per week instead of the normal amount.
“We felt like the last thing anyone needed was for campus ministry to be a hard thing,” Kim stated.
Despite their best efforts, the online chapel is different than in-person by nature. Both pastors and students have identified that their sense of fellowship has dampened.
“There is definitely a place for digital worship, but it can’t just replace the in-person worship long-term,” said Dave. Several students I have talked with this year have said their faith has been down because they haven’t gathered with others in such a long time.”
This resonates with Skindelien, who values in-person worship partly for socialization.
“Having that physical reminder that you are not alone and that you have this community to lean on,” Skindelien paused in thought, “that’s what worship has been for me in the past—a support system. I wouldn’t say the fellowship is gone. It’s just quite different.”
Despite the shared frustrations between students and the campus ministry, Kim and Dave now have a different perspective on the impact technology has on worship.
“We have connected with our broader Concordia community, including alumni and donors because of online services. We have always offered streaming services, but this year especially we pushed for more awareness on social media and other ways,” Kim said.
Despite the newfound connections technology has allowed for, Dave and Kim are still incredibly excited to return to in-person chapel and welcome students to join.
“Everyone is welcome. Join us. This service is for you and for us to do with you,” Dave said.
“If you are curious at all about what chapel looks like, you should check it out. It is open to all. If you are looking for a community of people to talk with and be in fellowship with, it’s a great place to start, said Skindelien. “You do not have to be religious or Christian to come. No one is excluded from this process.”
Even if chapel doesn’t sound like the right fit, Dave and Kim still offer their services for support during these times.
“You don’t have to be a church-goer to utilize the support from us. Our calling is to serve as chaplains to the whole college.”
The last service will be held at 9:50 a.m. on Monday, Apr. 26 in the Centrum and streamed on the Concordia Ustream channel.