“Lord God, We give you this week at PLNU and ask that you would have your way among us.
Wake us, renew us, fill us, disturb us that we may be a people growing deeper in our faith, deeper in our love for you and others.
We ask this in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN,” writes Mary Paul.
This was the prayer that vice president of spiritual development, Mary Paul, gave for PLNU students Monday of last week, in their campus-wide weekly chapel email. A key tone of renewal indicated a distinction from anticipated chapel rhythm.
Chapel is typically held 9:45-10:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Wednesday night Timeouts from 9:30-10:30. Jan. 31-Feb. 3, PLNU hosted its biannual Spiritual Renewal Week. Regular chapel schedules are maintained throughout the week.
By welcoming guest speakers—often pastors or leaders from fellow churches—as well as offering meet-and-greet sessions with these speakers, PLNU intends to offer an environment of spiritual renewal in students and faculty.
The Beatitudes were a central area of focus for the week, prompting students to contemplate the universal nature of its theme, “Blessed Are You,” from Matthew 5:3-12.
This spring’s Renewal Week heard voices from Tara Beth Leach of the First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena (“PazNaz”). Ministry duo Rev. Albert and Christine Hung of the District Church of the Nazarene and Trinity Church were also welcomed to the week. Closing the week was senior pastor of Stuart Williams from the Skyview Community Church of the Nazarene in Alberta Canada.
Junior marketing student Andrea Arellano provided the scripture reading at Monday morning’s service, given her relationship to speaker Tara Beth Leach, who was Arellano’s pastor at her home church.
A chapel scanner and volunteer, Arellano attends nearly all chapel services throughout the year. She feels that Renewal Week each semester is a time we are given the opportunity to pause and rest from the busyness of our daily lives.
“I like that everything closes as a way to persuade students to attend chapel, because renewal week brings in guest speakers. The majority of speakers we have are from around the campus but when we have guest speakers, who come from all over, it really allows for greater perspectives from each speaker because they bring their own style and teaching to us,” says Arellano.
Some PLNU students see Spiritual Renewal Week as an opportunity to engage with a deeper sense of their individuality via vessel of the speakers. For others, however, the week contrarily signifies a time of limitation.
It’s no taboo that among students, there is a general tone of inconvenience around the restrictions placed during the chapel hours of Renewal Week. Shutting off chapel Wi-Fi, as well as closing doors to Nicholson Commons and the Ryan Library, makes it hard for chapel ditchers to easily avoid Brown and spend that hour elsewhere on campus. Students who would prefer to spend chapel time grabbing a bite to eat or catching up on homework, are indirectly encouraged to engage in the festivities of the week, with less distractions.
“I have a biology exam to study for! No, Wi-Fi? Yeah, I’m going back to my room instead,” says PLNU biology major Isabella Simmons when asked if she was going to Wednesday’s chapel.
While the week’s intended purpose is to act as a positive force in the lives of student and faculty who participate, for some it’s just another obligation.
“I didn’t do much for [Renewal Week]. I just went to Monday and Wednesday chapel and drummed at Timeout like I normally do. In all honesty, it felt like any other week!” says PLNU psychology major Sammi Mrowka.
Sophomore Mrowka says that her experience with Renewal Week was very different in comparison to last year.
“I was in a very different place faith-wise last year, so this time around it just felt like any other random week. Last year, everything was super new and exciting because I was in the ‘honeymoon stage’ of faith, but now I’m starting to really go deeper with questioning Christianity and lean into doubt,” says Mrowka.
With this, the question remains: does Renewal Week impact the student body as deeply as Spiritual Development aims for it to? Mary Paul was unresponsive on the matter, on behalf of the department.
Hearing from the students, it can be argued both ways. Some students see the value in Renewal Week as it is right now, being of the few who take part in the discussion events offered during the week. However, not all may feel as spiritually moved by the renewal the university is hoping to foster.