Campus ministry adapts to COVID-19 restrictions with virtual chapel

Video courtesy of WCTV

With COVID-19 guidelines restricting large gatherings, Waynesburg Campus Ministry had to make a change. Typically, students and faculty would pack Roberts Chapel every Tuesday at 11 a.m. for chapel worship service. However, chapel has gone virtual in response to the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s definitely been a challenge and it’s different,” said Josh Sumpter, Waynesburg University Chaplain and instructor of biblical ministry studies. “Just due to capacity limits in the chapel, I felt that the live stream was our best and most consistent route to provide chapel for our campus community.”

Sumpter has led the transition to online chapel, but says the move has been a collaborative effort.

“It’s definitely a unique season for us at Waynesburg University, especially in regards to campus ministry and chapel,” Sumpter said. “I’m grateful for our media services team, I’m grateful for our chapel worship team, that we’ve all been able to come together and provide a remote live stream and the university allows us to do that on their YouTube account.”

The move has been smooth so far, according to Owen Hughes, senior sports management major, who has been watching the online sessions since the second week.

“I feel like they’ve done very well with the transition,” Hughes said. “There’s a lot of different platforms you can do it on. You can do it through YouTube live, you can do it through their website. So everything as far as getting it out there and having different platforms you can use made it really simple.”

The goal of growing faith at Waynesburg has not changed and continuing to hold services in an adapted format shows that, according to Sumpter.

“We want to grow,” Sumpter said. “We don’t want to be the same and chapel is a part of that. We want to point you to Christ and I hope it’s a formative part of a student’s experience here at Waynesburg University.”

A wide variety of guest speakers are being utilized to bring different perspectives to the messaging, an aspect of the services Sumpter believes is worth the time to check out.

“I would encourage students and employees here to log on,” Sumpter said. “For 30 minutes on a Tuesday, to hear a message from some of our colleagues, some of your coaches, some of your faculty members.”

Hughes also noted that the variety in speakers helps deliver the message from a different viewpoint.

“A big part of what they are is they are trying to get professors and students alike to talk, so it’s not just Sumpter giving the message every week,” Hughes said. “It’s a different person giving a different perspective, but with the same message to believe in God and to walk with him.”

Campus Ministry has also been utilizing social media to promote upcoming services and speakers, which is something that Hughes views as a strongpoint of the transition.

“So far they’ve done really well with communication,” Hughes said. “If you follow them on Instagram … you’ll get all the updates, you’ll know exactly who is going to be speaking that week and what they’re speaking on.”

Once it is safe to return to in-person services, Sumpter plans to continue streaming chapel for alumni, parents and residents of the Waynesburg area to continue viewing. While watching services on a screen doesn’t provide the same sense of community as being in Roberts Chapel, Hughes believes Campus Ministry has found the best substitute in the current situation.

“I think it’s the best they can do,” Hughes said. “No matter what, when you’re by yourself watching, you’re not going to get the same atmosphere you would going there. But as far as getting the exact same feel and the same message, they’ve done as good a job as they can.”

Even though weekly chapel services are different, Sumpter says Campus Ministry’s goal has stayed consistent.

“God is faithful and our calling remains the same,” Sumpter said. “So, we continue to press on and try to point students and our campus community to Christ through a remote chapel.”