Have you ever wondered what chapel was like a hundred years ago? From location to pranks to taking attendance, chapel has had to change with the times, but faculty members have always had the student body in mind.
“When the school was founded, Walter and Emma Malone were the resident ministers for First Friends, which was physically attached to the school building, so there was no question of where chapel would be held,” archival librarian Amy Yuncker said.
When Cleveland Bible College moved to Canton and became Malone College, chapel was held daily in the library, which was on the second floor of Founders Hall. Founders was the only existing building at the time.
After Osborne Hall was built, chapel took place on the second floor there for a few years. The room they used is now the multipurpose room, where yoga and dance classes are held.
After Osborne, chapel services were held in Bethel Temple on 25th Street between DeVol Hall and Osborne for almost thirty years.
As the student body grew, services had to move to accommodate all of the students. The largest space available was the gymnasium. Chairs sat on either side of the gym facing each other, and some students sat on the floor.
“The acoustics were really interesting and students would just make faces at each other across the gym, but that was the best location for students at that time,” said Linda Leon, ‘93 graduate and director of spiritual formation.
In the early days, chapel took the form of daily devotion and quiet hours and weekly class- and school-wide prayer meetings. Chapel speakers were such a big deal that they were advertised in the school catalog.
“They would bring in people from India, China—any place where they had missions. It was part of their big selling point for students because in the early 1900s, more than anything else, the school was just there to train preachers, missionaries, ministers, and people like that. They didn’t really incorporate academics until 1911 when they became the Bible Institute,” Yuncker said.
In the late ‘50s, there were still morning and evening devotions and class prayer meetings on top of chapel; it wasn’t until the ‘70s that non-daily chapel was integrated, but even then, students could only miss five chapel services per semester.
‘60s graduates reported that students had to sit in assigned seats as they listened to the service.
“In the early years, students were not allowed to sit with their significant others,” said Deb Robinson, ‘76 graduate and director of alumni and parent relations.
Just like today, students were allowed to provide the music in chapel. “The students provided music like quartets, trios, and singing hymn arrangements,” Robinson said.
Also in the ‘60s, the “Malone Experiment” began, in which the college decided to allow students to be non-Christian and faculty to be non-Quaker.
Despite all of the requirements for chapel, students were not afraid to have a good time.
“One story I heard [from ‘50s graduates] was that they set up all the chairs for chapel in the parking lot by 25th street because the weather was supposed to be glorious, and in the night, while the student body was sleeping, some of the students turned all of the chairs around so they were facing away from the speaker’s podium,” Robinson said. “Another time, [when chapel was held in Osborne,] students set alarm clocks under a number of the chairs that all went off at five-minute intervals throughout the chapel.”
Chapel pranks done in the ‘50s have carried on to today.
“The funniest thing that’s happened in chapel since I’ve been here is when students let go white mice from their psychology studies during homecoming chapel as an alum was singing on the stage,” Robinson said. “There were a few squeals from the sanctuary, but some other guys just jumped in and cornered them. Overall, I was really proud of the composure of the student body, but that’s the most interesting prank since I’ve been here.”
Methods of taking attendance in chapel have changed for the better since entering the age of technology.
“[In the ‘70s] we had chapel cards that we’d turn in, and they would run them through a computer the size of a room, and that’s how they took attendance,” Robinson said.
“Before ID swipes, we used to collect 4×6 paper cards, and you would write your name and your ID number on it,” Leon said. “It would take work study students ten hours after every chapel to alphabetize those and hand write little Xs on a sheet, marking ‘present’ or ‘absent.’ Now, the swipes download automatically into an attendance system.”
Chapel services, now called Spiritual Formation Opportunities (SFOs), have increased dramatically in number this year. Until fall 2012, students had to attend 20 of 27 chapels per semester. Now, over 70 SFOs are offered for students.
“The best change is our ability to use technology,” Robinson said. “Chapel is now livestream, so I can listen to it from my office if I have a busy day. Alumni say, ‘I hated that I had to go to chapel, but now I really miss it,’ so I tell them to go to the website and hear some great teaching.”
The Office of Spiritual Formation is trying to show students that spiritual formation is integrated as a part of the Malone education, not a separate entity.
“We are trying to reach people on campus like never before,” Leon said. “We have had much more positive than negative feedback this year, and we will continue to accept all feedback from students. We never want to get to the point where we become a rigid, unwilling-to-change ministry, because then we’ve forgotten who we’re serving.”
Since its beginning, Malone has had students in mind when it comes to chapel, and faculty hope to continue that into the future.
Autumn Berry is a contributing writer for the Aviso AVW.