President's Perspective

Chapel Buddies

Wheaton College IL President Philip Ryken Headshot

Dr. Philip G. Ryken ’88

Wheaton College President

Five minutes before the first Chapel of the new school year, Edman Chapel is abuzz. Friends who haven’t seen each other since spring run to embrace. Faculty members mill about the lobby, resplendent in their regalia.

Finding the right chapel seat adds to the commotion. Students meet their chapel buddies, maybe for the first time, and try to figure out the strange logic behind this semester’s seating arrangement. Is it based on denominational affiliation? Middle name? Credit hours?

This year I watched my son Jack—a Wheaton senior— walk into Edman for Convocation, check his cell phone, and make his way to a seat somewhere near the front.

A few minutes later, I saw his younger sister Kathryn enter the same doorway, check her cell phone to find her seat assignment, and start walking down the side aisle. Instantly, I knew exactly where she was headed: the seat right next to her brother.

It was fun to watch Kathryn shuffle past the students in her row—she was so unsuspecting!—and then see the reaction when my Wheaties came face-to-face and realized they would sit next to each other for the next four months. Kathryn started laughing. Jack shook his head and threw up his arms in mock exasperation, but his smile betrayed his true affections.

I later discovered that our undergraduates were seated according to the street number in their permanent address. As an unintended consequence, our brothers and sisters ended up next to each other—not just as siblings, but as chapel buddies.

Most of our students will welcome this happenstance, at least for one semester. Our campus is big enough that family members can go weeks without bumping into one another. But chapel buddies see each other several times a week—a chance to reconnect.

It felt good to see Jack and Kathryn worshiping next to each other. Their seating arrangement also reminded me of a deeper truth: Regardless of our address, we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, which means that our chapel buddies are always our siblings.

If that is true, then the way siblings greeted one another at Convocation this year is the way we should always greet one another when we worship together: with happy laughter, astonished wonder, and deep affection.

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