Why Do Students Hate Chapel?


Over the past year, a lot has changed at Ascension. At the beginning of the 2013 fall semester, we witnessed the first home game to be held at our own stadium. Less than six months later, school was closed for nearly a week because of the “snow days”, making it the first time ever that SMP was closed due to extremely cold weather. Over the following summer, the main school building would undergo the first major renovations since its construction. Clearly, last year was a time for many firsts.

Students, however, have not been so welcoming to all of this change. The house system, for example, has received much criticism since it’s inception in 2012. Last year, further efforts to incorporate the house system into advisory caused even greater backlash from all five grade levels. Fortunately for the administration, students are slowly but surely beginning to accept the idea that was originally rejected just two years ago. But there is still yet another aspect of Ascension life that has also changed just within the past couple of months. And not only is it very unpopular, but it is now starting to face more resistance from the student body than ever before.

I think it goes without saying, but that aspect is Spiritual Life.

Now, when I say Spiritual Life, I am not referencing the prefect position (which was recently deemed an obsolete position by the administration), but I’m referring to the combination of daily Chapel and Eucharist. But if AES is in fact an Episcopal school, then why is the idea of a chapel service detested so much?

The first, and most widely accepted reason, is that chapel cuts break time short. In some cases, the lector for a chapel service can ramble for so long, that break becomes virtually nonexistent and class starts immediately after chapel is concluded. How, then, can students be expected to buy a snack, walk all the way back to the building, go to the restroom, get books out of our lockers, and still have time left over for break? (Ascension problems, I know.)  Then after break is over, some teachers don’t allow snacks to be consumed in their respective classrooms (most notably Mrs. Lad and Mrs. Walker). And since a lot of students do not eat breakfast in the morning before school, denying them the right to eat at around 10:00 a.m. means that they have to wait until after 1:00 p.m. for lunch. This is not only detrimental to their health, but it can also negatively impact their performance in both the classroom and after-school sports practices.

I agree that having lunch at 1:00 p.m. is ridiculous, but making someone eat outside the classroom just because they did not have enough time to eat before the bell rang is cruel. These absurdities all stem from chapel lasting too long. This is why students advocate for some change in the daily schedule so that chapel won’t impede on their free time.

Scheduling conflicts are not the only reason for students resenting the Spiritual Life program though. Many just disagree with chapel and Eucharist philosophically. I’m also sure that those same people are upset that in the previous sentence, I capitalized the letter “e” in Eucharist.

Anyways, this disagreement was made very clear last year when many students declined to receive the bread and wine, which resulted in a visceral rant by Father Daly to the student body. Albeit some of those people are raised in a different religious tradition, (i.e. Islamic), most were self-proclaimed atheists and agnostics who were baptized as Christians. Being reprimanded for their lack of participation, many became even more discontented with the school’s spiritual life program.

It is these same people who make the argument that Ascension Episcopal School is supposed to be geared towards individualism and encouraging students to be free-thinkers. If this is the case, then students should be able to willfully not participate in chapel or Eucharist. Even more, some contend that attendance to chapel should be optional. Of course, this is all based on the hypothetical of what Ascension is supposed to be, not its actual state.

So if Ascension does not promote free-thinking, then what does it promote?  No need to guess, because it says it directly in the mission statement.

The main goals of this school are to “provide each student with the opportunity to achieve high academic standards, to gain appreciation for the fine arts, and to grow spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically.” All of this has to be done in a “Christian environment,” meaning that a student is supposed to “grow spiritually” but only in a Christian aspect. This is pretty much all Ascension needs to support the idea of Spiritual Life and is also why it won’t be going away anytime soon. After all, the board of trustees and the parents paying tuition spend lots of money for that mission statement to be meaningful.

Ultimately, the students who hate chapel are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can either A) Accept that Spiritual Life will always be an integral part of Ascension life or B) The opposite of A. Either way, absolutely nothing changes.

However, that doesn’t mean that some things shouldn’t change. Going back to the scheduling conflicts example, the administration should collaborate to amend the current daily schedule. I don’t know exactly how they would do it, but at the very least, some effort to make chapel and break the same amount of time would be reasonable.

Also, I somewhat agree with the people who dislike chapel because it goes against their own personal beliefs. I would like to see a school that is more open to new ideas and one that doesn’t taint its mission statement with strict conservative values. Therefore, the student body and the administration should reach some sort of compromise concerning the frequency of Eucharist, because ridding of Eucharist completely is not feasible. This type of interaction between the two groups would make the tolerance of Spiritual Life a lot easier for students.

So in the end, is chapel really that bad? According to most students, bad is an understatement. But on the bright side, it could be a lot worse. Besides, we’re only here for four years.

In the meantime, just give us a break.