Campus ReportingCampus Issue
Once a WeekChapel, from the past to the future
Oh Ye-sun Editor-in-Chief  |  sepiru@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2005.05.01  00:00:00
트위터 페이스북 구글 카카오스토리

 

Edotor's Note

Lee Su-yeun,
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 troubles.
In Korea, 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 services

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 weekdays.
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 together."
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 gradually."

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.
School 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. Jung.
Instead of 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 development.
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 together. 
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 and students.
As 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 valuable experience.

Spotlight

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 way.  
   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. <O.Y.S>

 

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