As a result of recent incidents that have occurred here on Wheaton’s campus, the community has come together in an attempt to begin healing its brokenness. Students have packed out buildings in order to hear from https://thewheatonrecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/IMG_0048.webpistration, confess sins and worship God through prayer and song.
On Feb. 27, the Chaplain’s Office, Student Government and Student Development hosted the last session of the Living Room series as a time to reflect and ask questions with president Philip Ryken, vice president of Student Development Paul Chelsen and associate dean of Student Care and Services Allison Ash. That afternoon, students and faculty filled the chairs, aisles and standing space in Barrows Auditorium to hear the conversation on how Wheaton will work toward “becoming a safer place for all students.”
Two days later, students and faculty filled Pierce Chapel, gathering for a time of lament, confession and worship. The prayer service began at 9 p.m. and continued until midnight.
Sophomore Kathryn Risher attended the service and said, “It was really refreshing to see our campus be excited about immersing ourselves in the presence of God and asking him to come and begin a redeeming work in our hearts and campus. We serve a God that is alive and at work. When his children cry out for his Spirit to come with power and redeem our brokenness, he hears us and responds. I think this event and all the prayers being prayed by people all around the world for Wheaton have been pursuits of God that have helped heal this campus.”
Chaplain David McDowell attended and said, “Many students are experiencing personal revival and a deeper desire for God. There are many who have been confronted with their idolatry and sin, and have confessed those before God and others.”
Student chaplain senior Catherine Holt said the college must learn from the many sins that have stained its campus in order to grow Wheaton’s foundation in the Lord. “The student chaplains hold a role of thinking and praying about the big-picture spiritual landscape of our student body. We have seen a deep hunger this year for a faith that moves beyond easy answers and seeks to understand how the gospel meets us in the depths of our pain. In light of that, these past two weeks make sense: When we seek the Lord, he starts by exposing sin. The question now is how we respond to that — do we retreat into the comfort of remaining spectators, or do we press into the discomfort of asking Jesus to show us each personally how we have injured the community around us?”
The prayer continued on Monday night, with students filling Pierce Chapel from 9:30 p.m. until 12 a.m. Following this, there was a weekly Tuesday morning prayer during chapel time. McDowell noted that these prayer events “have given our students a needed recourse to their fears and frustrations as well as a place of safety. Perhaps this is what the psalmists meant when they referred to God as their refuge and strength in time of trouble. These times of prayer also reflect a dependency on the Lord when we feel that situations or circumstances are beyond our control.”
Many students have been wondering whether or not the responses of prayer and worship to this time of hurt will instigate change on campus. Assistant professor of art history Matthew Milliner said, “They could be brief emotional soirées followed by a return to the status quo, but student leaders have specifically warned against this at the gatherings, and long term change has been the express goal, publicly stated. They could be mere song fests detached from serious Christian reflection, but the opening address at Sunday’s service was a passionate and informed fusion of Trinitarian theology with lived college realities, and the evenings were saturated with Scripture and classic Christian prayers alongside beautiful colloquial expressions of heartfelt faith. They could be a chance for a select group of students to gather and pray, leaving students most affected by these issues, or indifferent to them, untouched — but the events have been too big for that, and if the Spirit of these events is carried into the rest of campus life, then lasting improvements to our campus ethos could result.”