Opening Chapel: Loud Music, Spiritual Messages, Even Comedy


Loud praise music, spiritual messages, even some comedy, highlighted opening chapel services at Abilene’s three universities as the fall semester officially kicked off.

Abilene Christian, McMurry, and Hardin-Simmons universities started classes on Monday, Aug. 23. ACU’s opening chapel service was held that day and McMurry and Hardin-Simmons held theirs at their usual chapel times on Tuesday. 

“Be thou my vision, o Lord; Be thou my wisdom” are familiar words from the hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.” They held special meaning for McMurry students, especially first-year students, who sang them during the university’s opening chapel service.

Readings from Numbers, Joel, and 2 Corinthians, a message on “Casting Visions,” and prayer rounded out the service, which was held under a huge white tent on the quad. Chapel services at McMurry are sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Marty CashBurless is campus chaplain. 

Across town, ACU students opened their school year with chapel in an unfamiliar place. Normally, daily chapel services are held in Moody Coliseum, but this year’s opener was moved to the Teague Center while Moody is undergoing renovations. 

“You have looked deep into my heart, Lord, and you know all about me,” ACU President Phil Schubert read from Psalm 139. 

Schubert recalled the emotions he and his wife shared when they sent their two children, Sydnie and Mason, to college.

“Were they ready?” “Had we done enough to prepare them?” “Do they know how much we love them?” “What’s going to happen if…?” were among the questions that ran through their minds. 

It was an infinite list of questions and, Schubert said, he and his wife realized they could never anticipate all of the life moments their children were about to experience and how they would respond. 

In closing, Schubert offered a prayer asking God to remove the worry and the “what-ifs” from the minds of parents sending their children to ACU. 

“May they find peace in knowing that you are charting the path for their children every day,” he said.

At Hardin-Simmons University, Travis Craver entertained and inspired with his opening message. Craver is director of chapel and spiritual formation. 

“God doesn’t call the qualified,” Craver said. “He qualifies the called.”

That important message is laid out in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6:

5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Craver added some levity to his talk with a “conversation” between Saul and Ananias, as Saul “applied” to be an apostle. He also mentioned that Abraham was old, Noah was a drunk, and the disciples fell asleep while praying. 

“Do you think God can’t use you?” Craver asked the students.

He reminded them that everyone’s competence comes from God, like the scripture says, and students shouldn’t be concerned that they aren’t good enough to serve God.
“You’re more than able,” Craver said. “You’re more than competent when you devote yourself to God.” 

Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene

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