Wooster Today - February 2017
By Brooke Thaler, Publications Teacher
Weekly Chapel has been a long-standing tradition at Wooster, but did you know that the program has gone through a rebirth this year?
Last year, when it was announced that a new Senior Prefect position was to be created - the James Marshall Chapel Prefect - Bentley Jos, then a junior, thought that he might be a good fit.
He had felt that students were being "talked to" in Chapel, and that the topics weren't necessarily relatable. Students had a hard time finding how the talks resonated with them, and there was very little student involvement in the process.
"I thought, 'I want to do what I can to make it positive,'" he said. "I wanted students to be able to step away from studious life to talk and think about other issues; and then to go to lunch and keep talking about it. Also, as the first in this Prefect position, I thought that I could create something, and the person who follows me will follow the high bar that I set."
Many would agree that Bentley has set that bar quite high already. Back when he was appointed to the Prefect position last spring, he put together a calendar based on religious holidays and recruiting students who would be interested in helping out. He also created the James Marshall Chapel Society, which has 16 members, and helps out with the planning process, and with providing feedback on how the Chapels are going.
"It's really important to get students' opinions," says Bentley.
In order to get into the JMC Society, students wrote an essay expressing how they were dedicated to the program. They talked about issues that were spiritual and controversial.
"They really put themselves out there, and I realized we could have these conversations in Chapel, as long as they were facilitated in the right way."
At the start of this school year, Reverend Stephen Tickner joined the Wooster community as our pastor, and immediately began working side by side with Bentley.
"This was not like anything I had done before," said Rev. Tickner, who is also Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in Danbury.
"I had worked with Millennial Leaders in the past - 21-35 year olds, and it gave me a good launching point. It taught me that people were pretty deep. Then this shift to teaching kids, I see that we as adults can learn from kids. We both teach each other. The issue is usually getting students to share."
Self-Exploration became this year's theme, and the first Chapel focused on the "Spirit Inside of You." The inspiration for this idea came from the Gospel of Thomas, "that which is inside of you, that will give you life," says Rev. Ticker. "We all have stuff inside that we need to express."
One of the most unforgettable Chapel talks this year was by Sarah Lucic, a beloved Math teacher at Wooster, and a very outspoken Cleveland Cavaliers (and LeBron James) fan, Ms. Lucic shared her powerful message about injury, recovery, hope, and goals - all based around the Cavs championship win this past summer.
Throughout this school year, we have heard students and teachers sing, play music, and share their personal stories. We have had interactive ethical and moral discussions and we have been given the chance to reflect.
"There's so much going on in the world that we are taking in," says Bentley. "There are very valuable learning possibilities and Chapel plays a role. It’s about how our spirits are digesting it, not on the outcome."
Now, moving forward, each senior will be preparing their own Chapel talk. Senior Prefect Jacob Engelbrecht kicked this off by sharing his story. Then, last week, Director of Student Advancement Dr. Tyrone Black, who gave the seniors that directive, held us all captive during his Chapel talk on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and, we all learned that he can really sing).
So far, Bentley says the feedback has been positive. "It seems like people are thinking about it, and that's what matters."