Students used to crowd into a sanctuary with hands raised high in worship, but now they can only do so virtually by attending up to seven chapel services with the single click of a button. Online Chapel experiences this fall semester have become the new normal from now on as Vanguard community continues to face the challenges of COVID-19.
Among these changes come the many perspectives on this virtual experience from pastors to the students behind the screen.
For some students, it has been a great blessing and experience to be able to attend chapel remotely, especially for students living at home. However, some students are stressed by the logistics of proving the watched session online. Freshman Mya Cervantes said the spiritual connection disappears when you are worrying about filling out a Wufoo at the end of chapel. Other students, such as freshman Jason Cochran, simply find the video format boring.
Some of the worship leaders introduce the negative side of these challenges. There is the difficulty of improvising among their music groups, and taking care of that relationship with God on your own, as worship leader Jazlyn Burgos said.
Senior Marc Freire is carrying an extra load this semester, as the one who edits all the videos for the Spiritual Formation Department’s YouTube channel. Yet, Freire reminds the Vanguard community that “we are living in a new world, and it is difficult to get used to it. But we have Jesus.”
It isn’t easy for our fellow pastors as well, for they do understand all these challenges that may impact the student body.
“It kind of forces us to grow in ways that we may not have considered or may not have paid much attention to,” said Pastor Asenath Casarez, worship leader at Vanguard University. She recognizes the common challenge inside the music ministry of leading into a camera instead of a group of people.
“Sometimes I get a little frustrated recording myself preaching in my room,” said Associate Pastor Krystal Baca of Vanguard University. “But then I am reminded to be grateful that we can still share the word of God.”
The process behind the scenes has become another change for the chapel and worship experience. Pastor Asenath explains the way auditions and interviews had to be done online to create new worship groups. In addition, she provides counseling and encouragement from afar, while making sure that everything is available for her students to practice and get together to create their videos.
As for our worship leaders, Freire explains about a calendar made for musicians to see which days a certain group plays. While Burgos sees practices as a great time to have fun and become creative. These groups have to practice on their own and gather only once to check in and get ready to record.
Despite these COVID changes, hope still arises from these doubts. According to Pastors Asenath and Krystal, out-door chapels being announced sometime soon and leaning on God are ways to stay faithful. According to Pastor Krystal, “We are all trying our very best, and placing the rest in God’s hands is the best thing we can do.”