Chapel should be mandatory

Well that certainly should have gotten your attention. Now, before you throw me down the Dieseth trash chute, drown me in the Upper Iowa, or run me over with your 2001 Toyota Sienna, hear me out. I’m not talking about making you go say your morning prayers before the Lord, confess your sins to a priest, or unlock your seventh chakra—although you could do all those things if you wanted to. No, what I’m talking about is a little more nuanced and personal.

Chapel hasn’t been mandatory for Luther students in a long time, but the block of time has stayed open, and for good reason. This is the twenty minutes between 10:30 and 10:50 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday that has always been reserved for College Ministries to do their thing and for you to do…whatever you do. 

Nobody goes to Chapel. Maybe you haven’t been in a while—or more likely, you’ve never been at all—and that’s okay, I haven’t been in a long while either. Chapel is attended on a good day by five students and normally streamed to even less. Those numbers, for anybody who’s seen a Tai Verdes Concert at Luther, are rookie numbers. 

Perhaps it is the Lutheranism of it all. Maybe it’s the Christianity. Maybe it’s the whole “organized religion” thing. If that’s your problem, I get it. Chapel shouldn’t have to be your thing. You shouldn’t be forced to go to something you don’t want to go to, especially if you don’t believe in it. But it should be YOUR time. Think about it. How often have you used Chapel for its intended purpose? Do you use those minutes as a time set aside for a reset, for peace, for self-centering? 

You do? Well, you’re better than I am. I’ll tell you what I use my Chapel block for: study time. I’ve burned through more Latin problems, religion quizzes, and KATIE forum posts during Chapel time than I’ve ever sat and thought, done nothing, and…been a human being. I don’t know if you noticed, but stress weighs heavy. It wearies the soul, the heart, the mind. I feel as though I need to get all of the things done RIGHT NOW. Worst of all, we can’t do all of it in good time. We rush, rush, rush until eventually we hit rock bottom. That twenty minutes before class is often a God send—we can catch up on something. But when do we take that time out for ourselves? 

Oh, right, you already do. Sorry, I forgot. But for me, I need to start taking Chapel for its intended purpose. As a time out. Maybe that means going to Chapel service. Maybe that means sitting outside or going on a walk. Maybe that means just sitting and being. Whatever that means, it should be mandatory. That means that WE, the student body, must make it mandatory. For ourselves, and for each other. 

I also know what you’re thinking: Ethan, there’s only a week or two of school left, and then I don’t have to worry about being stressed. I’ll be in the workplace, or at home, and these twenty minutes of time that you’re talking about right now WILL NOT MATTER. 

I know. 

But we are supposed to be learning life skills at this college—even if the piss-poor attempts by health class taught you otherwise—and learning how to schedule a time out from everything, from social media, video games, or ever-present work can be vastly helpful in resetting a bad day. If we took the ability to habitualized a twenty-minute break from everything forward into the world, we could really change our world. 

If you needed any data, try looking at one of those Scandinavian countries. Yes, one of those countries apparently chalk full of way too many people that are way too happy for no good reason. I wonder if part of this happiness comes from a simple concept: the coffee break. In Sweden, the break is called “fika”, and the idea is to slow. Yourself. Down. During fika, you are quite literally required to relax, to put away the work and the media, and be present in the moment. Often fika includes conversation, but it doesn’t have to (you’re welcome introverts). Fika is your time, not the companies’ or the professors’, yours. 

So, what I’m saying is, take Chapel time as your fika time. Get some coffee if you need it. Whatever you do with that time, make sure you devote it to you, and make it mandatory for yourself. It should be your twenty minutes to recenter the self however you see fit. Maybe that last math problem, Latin translation, or forum response wasn’t all that necessary. Maybe we have something better to do.