Indiana Wesleyan University has a long and proud history of connecting students to God, and one of the most prominent ways that connection happens is through chapel services. Under normal circumstances, the entire student body of IWU’s residential campus gathers in the chapel auditorium three times a week to worship together.
The university knew the COVID 19 pandemic would make such a large-scale gathering impossible, so the chapel team decided to find a creative solution.
With the student body being unable to come together in one place, the IWU chapel team decided to send the chapel out to them. They decided to livestream each chapel service to students all across campus, allowing them to worship corporately without even leaving their dorms. Andrea Summers, the campus pastor, states that the moniker “Streams of Hope” was chosen for these services to invoke imagery of the Holy Spirit flowing through these streams directly to their students and invigorating their spiritual lives.
In addition to these streams, IWU chapel services have also offered alternative ways for students to gain their chapel credit through small groups and Bible studies, and also through Faith Integration Groups which are spaces where students can learn more about a wide variety of specific issues from a Christian perspective. Additionally, the chapel team has also begun offering communion through a come-and-go service where students are encouraged to worship and pray before taking the elements in their own time.
The Streams of Hope initiative has not been without challenges. The technology needed to stream the services to the entire student body has sometimes proved fickle, and the pandemic has made it difficult to schedule different speakers for the services. In spite of these setbacks, the spirit of creativity behind these services has allowed some students to make great strides in their spiritual journeys. Summers has shared that the Faith Integration Groups and the come-and-go communions have become so popular they may become a permanent part of IWU’s spiritual life even after the pandemic ends.
While Summers acknowledges the best way for students to connect to God is through in-person services that involve the entire IWU community, she is hopeful that such services will eventually continue. However, she hopes that students will take advantage of the variety of worship service styles that are being offered in such ways that will allow them to take fuller ownership of their faith and will allow them to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ.
Written by Emily Bays