Editor of Campus Reporting Div.
"WHY DO we have to attend chapel service in order to
graduate from this school? I'm not a Protestant either." Many Yonseians
seem to have similar complains about chapel service. As a non Protestant I
also had this view of chapel, and used to spend that time doing other
things, not concentrated with chapel, as other Yonseians do. However, a
proverb "Time is Money" becomes more realistic to us in this busy world,
we should consider more carefully why we attend chapel as much as an hour
a week. Moreover if we can't change the attendance system right now, it is
judged wise to try to obtain some valuable things from it. For those who
are still spending their time worthlessly during chapel, this month's
"Cover Story" will be a good opportunity to think about it deeply.
THIS JAN. 27, the surprising news about "Chapel Part-time job" at Ehwa Univ.
was reported through the media. The fact that some students earn money as
substitutes during the chapel attendance arose a big argument at that time. On
the other hand, in 1998, there was a case in which a student of Soongsil Univ.
who did not complete the chapel hours instituted a lawsuit against the school
authorities demanding a conferment of degree. Every few years, whenever such
troubles related to the chapel have occurred, students from non-Christian
schools used to be curious about what chapel is and why it creates such
there are 224 universities including both public and private schools. Among
these, over 40 schools are following the Christianity-based instruction, called
mission school. At Yonsei, one of the leading Christian schools in Korea, how
much do Yonseians know about the chapel service? Now, it is time to diagnose
what they are attending every week.
The history and the present condition of chapel
Chapel is not a worship service held in a church. Different from typical
church worship, chapel is referred to as a kind of subject in which not only
Christians but also non-Christians learn the value of Christianity together on
Yonsei Univ., founded under the spirit of Christian faith, has
operated a chapel service since its establishment. From the early stage of
school to the 1970's, the whole studentbody and faculty had to attend a chapel
service every week for eight semesters. In the 1980's, Pres. Ahn Sei-hee
attempted to operate a free-chapel, yet it only failed due to poor student
participation below 10%. In the latter half of the 1980's, school authorities
changed the system into a four-semester compulsory chapel and have continued
that program until now.
At present, Yonsei's chapel is divided into three parts:
"General chapel", "Experimental chapel", and "Union chapel". "General chapel" is
the most ordinary kind of chapel, which provides familiar lectures for students.
Chaplains, professors and other people of fame are invited every other week and
give an instructive lecture to the students. "Experimental chapel", offered two
or three times a semester, provides its Christian message through various
cultural performances such as music, plays, dance, and musicals. Among the three
types of chapels, the biggest one is "Union chapel". First introduced in year
2001, Union chapel is produced once a semester in the Amphitheater. Alumni,
faculty and their families, as well as undergraduate students, can join the
event. Every year about 4,000 people at Yonsei are participating in the chapel,
so the relationship between Yonsei and the chapel is very close.
What does chapel give us?
Yonseians have to attend chapel every week for four semesters. When adding up
the total number of hours, it requires a lot of time, yet there are few students
who seriously consider what they are attaining from the time spent in chapel.
Since its beginning, chapel was regarded as only a religious affair by the
majority of students. However, school authorities emphasize that chapel plays a
much more important role, beyond the ritual event.
The first good point of
chapel is that it helps students to attain wisdom in life and form their value
systems. In high school, most students struggle to enter university, regarding
it as their one goal in life. It causes them not to have enough time to think
why they go to university and what they want to learn. Sermons from notables
provide these students with the time to consider how to prepare their life while
in college and a way to live together in the age of competition. "When inviting
lecturers, we do not demand them that they should preach a Christian sermon to
the students. Instead, we ask them to show their lives just as they are, as well
as how they have lived and overcome the hardships of life. From their honest
presentations, students can learn a good lesson," says Jeong Chong-hun (Prof. of
Christian Ethic, Chaplain).
As a secondary role, our school states that
chapel enforces the unity of the university creed. In the case of the entrance
ceremony in some universities, it is difficult for students to experience
unification with their own schools since many of them miss the ceremony. The
graduation ceremony is also not that different. Except for those events,
official meetings in which such a large number of Yonseians can get together as
one is very few. Park Jung-sei (Dir. of Chaplain's Office) says "Yonseians do
not well recognize this good function, which enables many students to gather
Lastly, the primary function of
chapel is that it enlarges the students' experiences with Christianity. For
non-Christian students, it is not easy to experience Christian-type events and
even for Christian students, they do not have enough chances to possess the high
qualities of Christian culture. Yoo Il-a (Soph., Dept. of Korean Lang. &
Lit.) says, "As a person without religion, I used to get into trouble due to
excessiveness of Christian people or Buddhists. However, in case of our chapel,
I was pretty satisfied that I could experience Christian culture indirectly and
Conflicts about the chapel service
It is true that chapel has been operated with its positive effects and
desirable purpose, yet the responses of students also cannot be overlooked.
Examining the 2001 statistical data surveying 2,113 Yonseians by the Office of
Chaplain, 77.92% of the entire studentbody checked a negative answer when they
were asked what state of mind and attitude they had while attending chapel.
"To get a chance to experience Christian culture might be good, yet I do not
agree to the rule that anyone who fails to complete a mandatory number of chapel
attendances cannot graduate from Yonsei. The fact approaches me, a non-
religious person, as a big burden," said No Yoon-a (Soph., Dept. of Psycho.). To
the question of what is his opinion about chapel, Kim Kyoung-sik (Fresh., Area
of Engin.) implied "In fact, to be present in chapel is tiresome to me. Since
the lectures don't make students concentrate on it well, most students do other
assignments during that time. That is not only ineffective but also gives the
impression that the time spent there is a waste." While the majority of students
highlight the problems with the inefficient operation of chapel, a more
fundamental opinion also existed. "I don't like the feeling of being forced to
think like a Christian. Because chapel still has a feature like a religious
ritual, it has room for infringing on fundamental human rights, the freedom of
religion," states Hyun Ji-young (Soph., Col. of Human Ecology).
On the other
hand, this March 14, Uhm Su-hong (Soph., Dept. of Engin.) protested against
compulsory chapel in front of Centennial Hall. Uhm was opening a campaign to
obtain students' signatures and was insisting that he would continue his protest
until the university authorities changed the rules. It was the first protest
since an anti-chapel organization composed of ten students was conducted six
years ago. This current event ignited the chapel controversy again, and showed
the seriousness of this situation.
The school made its position clear in
each proposal to its students. School authorities explain that it is inevitable
to set a rule controling the number of chapel attendances since almost all
students will miss chapel if there is no duty and rule. In matters connected
with the efficiency of chapel, they say that the role of students is very
important in order to make the time valuable and helpful. "Many Yonseians read
newspapers, do homework, sleep, or chatter with friends on most chapel days.
Disturbing the time like that with their ears plugged is not an attitude of an
intellectual. If students show a bit more polite manners, they will be able to
attain much more beneficial instruction from it," said Prof. Jung.
authorities, on the other hand, presented very sensitive responses to the matter
of "freedom of religion". They took a firm attitude against the abolishment of
chapel saying that it is not acceptable because the chapel service is a symbol
of Yonsei's foundation spirit. "Some students complain that chapel encroaches
the freedom of religion, yet we try to make sure that our purpose is conveying
the instructive messages, not in making all students Christian," stated Prof.
abolishment, the school has been trying to reflect the opinion of students. In
the 1980's, chapel had progressed following the sequence
"praise-prayer-admiration-sermon-praise-benediction" which was quite Christian.
However, as the opinions of many students has evolved gradually, the Christian
colors have been dimmed and the chapel is now following the reduced step
"praise-short prayer-sermon". Through feedback from the students every semester,
the Office of Chaplain is also trying to deliver their messages effectively,
increasing the ratio of "Experimental Chapels" to "General Chapels".
For the advancement of chapel
Yonsei Univ. is one of the models of Christian schools operating in Korea.
For that reason, even a slight change in Yonsei chapel services can have a big
influence on the other mission schools. In that context, the school authorities
need to build more responsible and effective chapel services along its
Chapel is an inevitable factor in Christian universities, since
the spreading of Christianity is the basic aim of these schools. Yonsei is not
an exception. In that context, school authorities have to find a compromise
solution in order to operate chapel flexibly. Above all, it needs to carefully
consider about both the 45% of Christian Yonseians and the 55% of non-Christian
Yonseians. As far as it is operated within the mixed group, chapel is not able
to be free from argument because non-Christian students criticise the chapel
service for being too religious while the other part wants it to be more like a
worship service. To solve this problem, the Office of Chaplain is considering
introducing a new form of chapel; This plan will include three different types
of chapel, produced in parallel. The first type will be a purely Christian
chapel targeting students who want to enhance their faith. Praise and worship
are expected to be the main components of this chapel service. Another type is a
chapel which is entirely free from Christian dogma. Because this is for the
students who are non-Christian, it will offer Christian values generally through
the various methods. Lastly, the mixed chapel will be the same as the present
one, so that both non-Christians and Christians can still participate
In addition to this practical solution, to create a more
favorable atmosphere and environment is also important in managing chapels.
Reminding students and parents who prepare for the university entrance exam of
the fact that Yonsei is a school found and based on Christianity is one of the
good ways. Furthermore, school authorities have to lessen the serious friction
surrounding chapel attendance, through providing accurate information to parents
mentioned before, chapel is an essential factor of Yonsei which is too
difficult?o obtain instructive lessons from it rather than just making
complaints without deep consideration.
The truth will set you free
In the center of Baikyang-ro,
the spirit of Yonsei's establishment is engraved in a stone monument. "The truth
will set you free." How does Yonsei embody this spirit? Chapel has existed for
over 100 years here, in Yonsei. Through the chapel's long history, students
should try to find the truth that makes them free and the school has to give a
freedom to the students who seek this truth. Now, it is time to create
harmonious voice between both sides, school and students. In the near future, it
is expected that all Yonseians will recall the time spent in chapel as a
|Before I started to write my article, I was very
curious about the chapel services of other universities. Imagining the
interesting materials they would offer their students, I thought that they
wouldn't have any troubles in operating chapel service. To my surprise,
however, as I visited other Christian universities, I discovered many
lacks and flaws in the outside chapels. Entire 50 minutes preach and
prayer, and lecture-based chapel for 80% a year surprised me. I was also
perplexed to hear that they had never once surveyed an appropriate
research targeting their students. Now, I am not trying to say that Yonsei
chapel is perfect, but that our chapel is changing into good
Frankly speaking, I was also one of the common students who regarded
chapel as just a nuisance. However, while preparing the article, I had
many opportunities to think deeply about the chapel that I'm attending
every week. It seemed quite difficult to concentrate on the chapel for 40
minutes at first, yet I was soon able to find myself trying to attain as
much useful instruction as possible, leaning towards the stage. If the
both sides, school authorities and Yonseians make an effort and follow a
cooperative method, chapel will be reestablished as a unique distinctive
culture of Yonsei. This is are my concluding observation.