LCU’s 64th Opening Chapel, one of the most unique times at the start of each academic year at LCU, may have looked a bit different than usual this fall—but the service was no less powerful than any other year.
For the first time since before Spring Break, LCU students returned to campus Monday, August 24, to begin the fall 2020 semester, including a new cohort of incoming freshmen students. With the ongoing safety challenges posed by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, many changes were implemented as faculty, staff, and campus leadership worked to ensure the health and safety of each member of the LCU community.
Masks are required in campus buildings, and students, faculty, and staff members were each provided an LCU branded mask. Rigorous sanitation and cleaning regimens have been instituted across the board for classrooms, offices, and living spaces. Appropriate social distancing was integral to rearranging classrooms and common areas in all buildings, and various other safety measures have been implemented as leadership, guided by evidence-based research and data, has worked diligently to ensure the safety of the LCU community.
Opening Chapel, a staple in the first week of class each academic year, was no exception. The event, usually hosted in the McDonald Moody Auditorium, was moved to the larger, strategically-sectioned Rip Griffin Center to accommodate social distancing, and masks were similarly required indoors. Despite the changes, however, the morning ceremony flowed smoothly, featuring songs of worship led by Director of Choirs Dr. Philip Camp, welcomes from LCU Provost Dr. Foy Mills and each of the academic deans, and a charge given to students from LCU’s new President, Dr. Scott McDowell.
One of the most powerful moments from the service, though, came in the form of a prayer of blessing from Dr. Byron Rogers, Professor of Chemistry and Lecturer of Music. Rogers fervently asked for the Lord’s providence and favor on the LCU community toward the end of the assembly, offering a potent reminder of the importance of the university’s middle name.
“Dear Father, see us here this morning as we gather in Your presence. Please hear us this morning as we offer You our thanksgiving and declare that You are worthy to receive blessing and glory and honor and power and wisdom and might forever and ever. O Lord, God of Hosts, hear my prayer. Give ear to my cries, O God of Jacob. You, Lord God, are our sun and our shield: You bestow favor and honor. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
“O Father, we beg You for blessing today. In ways that You and You alone are blessed, we implore that You bless us. Please, Father, pour Your richest, fullest blessing into our lives. Bless us so that we might bless all those around us. Pour into our hearts Your love and bless us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Bless us to see Your children as You see them. Bless us with Your Holy Spirit that we might be filled with You.
“Father, by the riches of Your glory, bless us with strength in our inner beings, with power through Your Spirit. Bless us that Your Christ might abide, might dwell in our hearts, not as a sojourner, no, but so as to fill us with all Your fullness, so that we can truly know the love of Your Christ, its breadth, its length, its height, its depth. Love beyond all knowledge, Father, this is what we beg You for. For so blessed, we will love our neighbors as we love ourselves, bear each other’s burdens, hold each other up, forgive as You forgave us.
“Father, we ask You to bless us in things large and small. Bless our smiles to each other. Bless us to speak kindly to each other, to receive kindness from each other. Bless the work of our hands, the work of our minds, and the work of our hearts. Bless us to create community, to share love, to share time, to share lives. Bless us with patience when knowledge fails. Bless us to serve when all we want is rest. Bless us with rest at close of day. And bless us with renewed spirit with each new day You deem fit to give us.
“Father, you have blessed me in this time of uncertainty with a certain knowledge that I have been selfish and prideful and unloving. I pray the prayer of Your servant Teresa of Calcutta:
‘Help me spread Your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may be only a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I know will feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only You.
“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.
“And to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in those He has called out and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”