BY JULIANA VERHAGE | STAFF WRITER
Spiritual Development implemented a new job position called ‘Chapel Greeter’ at the beginning of the school year to welcome students and improve safety in Chapel, much in response to recent university shootings and targets on Christians.
According to Chaplaincy Ministries Assistant Kaitlin Runion, the position was posted within the first two weeks of the school year, students applied and were interviewed, and then through prayer and decision making, eight students were hired.
Runion and University Chaplain Tim Whetstone said they selected a team of energetic, friendly upperclassmen who could meet the time requirements of the job with their current class schedule.
“The students that applied and were accepted, I think, get that the emphasis is to greet. All of them are upperclassmen so they get the ebb and flow of the year. They know how to deliver a hello during midterms as opposed to the one during the very first chapel,” Whetstone said.
Once hired, they went through a week of training with Whetstone, Assistant Director of Public Safety Glen Laster, and Nicholson Commons Director Milton Karahadian.
Whetstone instructed on the greeting portion of the job. Laster taught on safety awareness and crowd management. Karahadian trained the students on how to function as a backup ID scanner, in case one of their co-workers can’t attend work, they will still be able to scan people in efficiently.
Though the Chapel Greeter position is threefold, Whetstone said, “the main underlining emphasis behind it is to greet.”
Whetstone added that recent school shootings and those targeting Christians in the U.S. have prompted many of the new safety protocols as well for this job.
“It is why these chapel greeters are not only a welcoming presence but a critical presence,” Whetstone said.
Sophomore Chapel Greeter and Christian Ministry major Tyler Marlow described a normal day on the job.
“I high-five people, greet people, say good morning and basically just make other people smile while welcoming them into chapel,” said Marlow.
The Chapel Greeters work on a rotational basis and ‘greet’ at two chapels per week.
Four workers are present for each chapel and two of these four also take on a security role during the service. The two who are security, “sit in the back row and keep a lookout for anyone entering and exiting, for people who aren’t supposed to be there,” according to Runion.
Greeters are to keeping an eye on those who do not appear to be affiliated with PLNU.
All of the doors to chapel, except for one on the Eastside and Westside entrances, are now closed and locked ten minutes into Chapel to limit the number of entrances while still allowing unlimited exits in case of emergency. This also limits the number of doors that greeters must monitor.
While the greeters have been instructed in safety protocol, “the responsibility of our users is not public safety, it is safety awareness.
“They are the students that remain aware during large gatherings,” said Whetstone.
This awareness refers to focusing on scanning the crowd and environment of chapel, rather than on the worship or speaker.
Whetstone said if an emergency to occur, a public safety officer on rotation nearby Brown Chapel would handle it more directly.
Marlow said that if a chapel greeter sees any suspicious character or activity, they are to alert the on-call staff member.
This on-call position changes daily and is worked by staff from Spiritual or Student Development. Runion is always available for students to contact in the event of a chapel emergency.
Marlow said the training safety that the greeters learned is what type of language to use if there was an emergency, how to evacuate the chapel and where to lead others to go. The greeters are to handle emergency situations in a peaceful manner that keeps the crowd calm and guides everyone out as quickly as possible.
Currently, there are two interns at Liberty Station who take on both the scanner and greeter job for every chapel. There is also a public safety officer present with them.
The greeters do not currently work Wednesday night’s Time Out.
Whetstone said the reasons for this are because Public Safety already has a high number of officers patrolling around Brown Chapel at night and because of Spiritual Development’s budget limitations.
He hopes to add greeters to Time Out in the future. Runion said that comparatively a “higher volume of students come in the mornings” making it a priority to have the greeters at that time.
In beginning the process to create the position, Whetstone consulted other chaplains in the The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).
He has been interested in implementing chapel greeters since beginning his job at PLNU about four years ago.
For Marlow, the job can be fun as well as an opportunity to provide a service.
“I love working around people and bringing smiles to people’s faces. If I can do that, then I can make someone’s day special,” Marlow said. “This job is so much fun and just such a blessing to have.”
Whetstone hopes “it’s something we keep around for a long time.”