One of the opportunities that I have while in seminary is working as an Intern in the Chapel office here at Asbury. This year, I am leading the student team that designs and coordinates three services a week as well as many special events. I came to the seminary with experience both leading and designing worship and I have been excited about continuing my interests in the context of an academic worshiping community.
There have been several hurdles to jump that I had never dealt with before. Anytime you are responsible for worship in a community as large as ours, it can easily become a chore and not a privilege. Navigating through this issue is something that I have to remind myself of often, and make sure I check myself on it.
I have a great respect for my job, because it is not only in the classroom that seminary students learn. Anything that requires management and execution in the institution serves as a teaching tool for the student. By running the chapel services, we are providing an educational experience for every student that attends (chapel is not mandatory). If someone enjoys chapel, they will take it to do local parish, but if they don’t, they will use their dissatisfaction as a ruler to measure how they run worship at their churches. It takes patience to realize that some people simply won’t be happy, and to use discernment when dealing with critiques.
The main issue that my team has in front of itself on a weekly basis is designing services that are able to transcend age and denominational boundaries, and to make sure that there is fair weighting among hot-button issues that people have (worship styles, styles of preaching, prayer emphasis, annual lecture series, etc..). Asbury does a good job with various music styles, so we rarely have to deal with this issue, and I recognize this as a blessing.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays (our main class days), we have around 300-400 in attendance, and our community is one that enjoys chapel. We concentrate on keeping continuity between services, so we often design an opening and closing (at minimum)that we will follow throughout the entire church season that we are in. On Wednesdays we have eucharist chapel and are able to get more creative with our services. It is on these days that we can focus on integration within the commontext that the chapel office has selected for the season (this last fall was Matthew 5-7).
Hopefully this can serve as an introduction to the context I work in. I realize that in many local church situations, the pastor (and music minister) are responsible for doing the work that I am able to assign 6-8 people towards. Over the Spring, I hope to get more into detail so more people can learn some of the short-cuts that we have picked up in order to plan great services that fit the needs of many people.