A Letter to the Editor

17 03 2006

walczak-article.jpg
Walczak’s Article

Today, in the Grove City College Collegian, I had a letter to the editor published. Before you read my response below, the above image(click to enlarge) is the article that I wrote my letter in reply to. You should read that before you read my response.

Jared Walczak’s column, “Bring the ‘old time religion’ to Chapel,” is full of inaccuracies because he has missed the point of the chapel program at the College. In the column, he attempts to justify his narrow-minded view of the “correct” practice of Christianity, and, though I lack the time and space to respond to all of his claims, I will reply to several.

First, Mr. Walczak claims that speakers do not take chapel seriously. On what does he base this? His personal boredom or the disconnection he experiences in chapel? Has he spent any significant time with any of the speakers during his time here at Grove City? For the past year as a member of the chapel staff, I have shared breakfast and a time of prayer with almost every speaker that has stood in the chapel pulpit, and I cannot think of one who took the responsibility to address the students here lightly.

Mr. Walczak also writes that speakers do not try to touch upon matters of lasting value in their 17 minutes. Perhaps Mr. Walczak could give us the proper length for a sermon. Could it be the time it takes to climb Mount Pisgah? I would ask Mr. Walczak to turn to Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, and to Acts 2, where Peter preaches during Pentecost. Reading either of those sermons aloud will take much less than 17 minutes. I wonder if Mr. Walczak believes their shortness robs them of anything of “lasting value.”

Finally, Mr. Walczak is showing us how he thinks that church should be. It’s fine for him to present his views on the church, but he confuses the College’s chapel with church. Chapel is not meant to replace church. Mr. Walczak shows us throughout his column what he wants his church to be like—full of traditional songs and lacking contemporary ones—and attempts to discredit worship in any other way. But what if he was born before 1758, when “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was written? Would he still raise his Ebenezer or would he have said that it was a “popular praise song?” What happened to the thousands of hymns that Charles Wesley wrote if he was penning for the ages?

Mr. Walczak, if you wish to be challenged, provoked, or inspired, climb down from your close-minded steeple and take a seat in chapel with the realization that it is there to expose you to different faith backgrounds. You might be surprised what you’ll hear when you begin to listen.

Any thoughts? Perhaps you are just shocked that I posted two days in a row.


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3 responses

17 03 2006
Donkey Patrol

I’m going to do it…I partly agree with you James, and I’m with Wal-face as well. In regards to the purpose of chapel at GCC, I think you’re right on and hope that you would be, seeing as that you are on chapel staff. Chapel not equal sign church and intentionally so. As an admissions counselor I love telling prospective students and their families that we do not mandate Sunday morning ‘chapel’ attendance explicitly so students will go to a ‘church’ that fits their worship style. I love that we have students actively becoming involved in the faith community in Grove City the town. Chapel shouldn’t be a substitute for your regular church attendance, but rather an addendum to your weekly worship experience.
However…however…I see what that guy is saying about the contemporary conceptualisation of hymnody in the 21st century. I will fight you to the death over the issue of “traditional worship” versus “contemporary worship” as pertains to the quality of hymns v. praise choruses. I’m not delving into the argument that one is better than the other…praising God is praising God in my book and if you can really see God by singing “open the eyes of my heart” then go for it. But I believe that the quality of hymns penned in the days of yore, and that the intentional, reflective purpose of said hymns brings a reverence, a weightiness, and an awesomeness to a worship experience that no contemporary composer can grasp. It seems with hymns of yore, to separate the spirituality from the verbaige and musical genius is completely impossible. In a lot of contemporary worship songs, often times I feel like I could be singing to Jesus…or my friend Keith, or my girlfriend, or about how good I feel. I appreciate the solemnity with which writers like John Wesley, Martin Luther, Fanny Crosby, so carefully weighed their words and their intentions. Look at any methodist hymnal and read John Wesley’s intention for worship. It’s sublime in its simplicity and in its passion. To sing a contemporary song (like I did last week in church) where the lyrics are “Your loving kindness is better than life itself…much better than life itself”, I feel like the composer was trying to be overly emotive and exaggerated in their description of their reverence of Christ, but threw out essential elements like making sense, choosing words that very from refrain to refrain, and putting weight behind their worship. I guarantee you that I could pen a better song right now without opening a Bible, being in a reflective mood, or even thinking about Jesus. That lack of substance, and the overemphasis on the baselessness of emotionality in worship, I feel, is a detriment to believers everywhere.
Ok I’ve said my piece. That’s just what I think. I can praise God in a contemporary worship service, but I do prefer a worship experience centered around piety, humility, and essential reverence for the Lord. I feel that essence is captured in the hymns of ‘old time religion’. What sayest thou?

19 03 2006
Amy

Yeah Jim!

Preach on brotha!

19 03 2006
Alanna

I agreed with the article until he began discussing chapel. And I am much more lenient towards praise songs (but fairly picky about which songs and the way in which they are presented).
I agree with your response about his criticisms of chapel.

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