What “Chapel” Is in a Lutheran Church & School

by guest contributor Rev. Matthew Moss

Greetings in Christ! It is my great joy to write this week on the place of chapel services in our Lutheran day school at St. John’s. I thank Mrs. Dolan and Mrs. Kuehne for the opportunity!  

On the playground we play. In the classroom we study. In the lunchroom we eat. As baptized Christians we may “worship” God in each of these places by obeying His commandments, lovingly serving our neighbor, and honoring our teachers. Prayers may be heard in each place and the Word of God also shared. But there is one time and place especially set aside for the Word of God and Prayer: Chapel Services in the Sanctuary.  All other things are put on hold that we may worship God by listening to His Word, learning from our Pastors, praising God in song and chant, and praying to Him for mercy and grace. 

Chapel is not an all-school assembly for the purpose of entertainment, although there is a time and place for that, too! Chapel is not a replacement for attending Sunday worship at your Church. It is an all-important supplement for the children to prepare for participation in the gathering of all ages around Word & Sacrament that weekend. Chapel is not an unimportant add-on to the end of a school week. It is a central and essential part of every week! Chapel is one of the greatest things to point to as a difference between Lutheran education and other public, private, charter, and even home-schooling options. If someone asks why you send your child(ren) to a Lutheran school, you can ask them if their school teaches children how to worship, pray, and grow in faith together as a small community. 

Again, on the playground we play. In the classroom we study. In the lunchroom we eat. And in each of these areas, including our worship in the Sanctuary, there is a constant eye towards growth, stretching and expanding each age group’s knowledge and abilities. As I often say, our goal is to give children a faith to grow into, not to grow out of! For this reason we have multiple settings for chapel that we use throughout the year.

In a regular week we will have 2nd through 8th Grade gathering to use the Office of Matins from the hymnal. We teach them how to use “the book” with the goal of growth and familiarity to where they can speak, sing, pray, and chant the whole service having it learned by heart. The weekly catechism recitation, the hymn of the month, and scripture lessons form the changing elements of the service. They are developing a weekly habit of repeating familiar pieces while hearing something unique to that week – a habit highly conducive to weekly Divine Service attendance! 

Following this service the preschool through 1st Grade comes to the Sanctuary for a shorter version of Matins; but while it is shorter it has been rapidly growing over the weeks of our school year. Between the pastors’ visits to classrooms on Wednesdays, the teachers’ work with them directly, and each Friday’s visit to the Sanctuary, the littlest children who may not be ready to use “the book” are yet taught many of the pieces of the liturgy.  If a particular response is not spoken or sung well, be it new or something from the beginning of the year, we pastors will repeat it a few extra times for reinforcement. Repetition is the mother of all learning, and this format allows us to repeat what is needed as we pastors listen and lead them in their chants and prayers. 

A third chapel setting is the monthly (sometimes more often) All-School Chapel which is an amalgamation of the full Matins service from the hymnal with the abbreviated portions the littlest ones are learning. This helps both to encourage and challenge the younger grades as they see the older kids singing what they have learned and also hear a little more of what they will yet learn, whether it’s a hymn, the catechism recitation, or a canticle like the Te Deum. The older students likewise enjoy sitting with the youngest, hearing them repeat the well-known responses but with the added joy (and loud volume) that the youngest so eagerly bring to the service.

A final chapel setting only occurs once per year and is very special: on Ash Wednesday (this year, Feb. 22) we gather as a whole Church & School with congregation members, parents, school families, and students attending a Divine Service with special holiday rites to start the solemn and holy season of Lent.  From the youngest to the oldest (and that includes the grandparents in attendance), this day refocuses all of us on the constant growth that marks the life of a Christian. We are never done learning God’s Word. We never graduate from repentance.  We are disciples of Christ for life.  

Parents are always welcome to come on Friday for Chapel. We hope to see you there!

In Christ,

Pastor Matthew Moss

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