Wing Chapel at Patrick Henry College
By Jackson Katanic
Compared to many other Christian colleges, Patrick Henry College’s rules on chapel are pretty light. There is required corporate chapel three times a week, with ten skips allowed per semester. On top of that, each wing in each dorm has a mandatory chapel twice a week with no skips. These are led by the wing’s Resident Assistant, who also decides on the topic for the chapel. I have loved every minute of the wing chapel I was able to take part in. My wing at Patrick Henry College was made up of random Christian guys from all over the US who didn’t have much in common, aside from mostly being homes chooled and all being freshmen by year except for our RA, which was unusual. What was common to us was our desire to serve Christ, which I found is what made our chapels most memorable. I can’t praise Patrick Henry College’s practice of wing chapel enough for several reasons.
In recent years, fellowship is harder and harder to come by. It seems like people are withdrawing more and more into themselves through social media and other things. Yet, I founda fellowship at Patrick Henry College that grew throughout my freshmen year. What wing chapel did for this was make us connect at least twice a week and thus help bring us together. We would talk about nonsense, make fun of each other, and just reconnect before we started actual chapel. But our talking about serious subjects is what really brought us closer. There is something about sharing something deep about yourself that makes you draw closer to someone. That is why small talk doesn’t usually ending building the strongest friendships. Our sharing of our struggles and often difficult testimonies taught us that we could trust each other.
I learned at Patrick Henry College that fellowship is an investment. It is not something you just find. Students I know that did not find a great community at Patrick Henry College were, the vast majority of the time, not looking for it. If you want great community and friends, you have to find them and invest in them. This is, in fact, easy to do. With our wing chapels and frequent interactions with each other, my wing built such strong friendships because we wanted them and realized we needed to grow stronger in our faith.
We also learned a lot through each wing chapel. Or, at least, I did. While we did go over regular-style studies of certain passages throughout the Bible, my main learning point was the difference of viewpoints the guys had on certain passages. Our different experiences allowed us to get a slightly different grasp of a complicated topic and then we could discuss it. I got a lot out of those discussions. Since none of us were experts, it was not like the Patrick Henry College Theology of the Bible course. But we were able to take a topic that we knew well and be able to turn it over and examine it in our discussions.
The best times we were able to see each other’s views on subjects was when our RA decided to have us each of us rotate and lead our own wing chapels. Each of us picked our own topics and decided what we wanted to talk about. It was a great experience because we each had great insight on at least a couple subjects and were thus able to share it well. Patrick Henry College set up its week so that in-depth teaching would be at regular chapel and the great discussions would be for wing chapel.
Iron Sharpening Iron
Proverbs 27:17 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of a friend” (NKJV). This well-known verse captures how good friends are able to keep each other accountable along with strengthening each other. Our wing at Patrick Henry College grew into the habit of calling each other out whenever something concerned us. Wing chapel taught us each other’s vulnerabilities and that we could address problems in each other when we saw them, but not in a self-righteous way. It was rather the image of brothers keeping each other in line. This practice also forced us, myself included, to let go of a lot of our pride, since being accountable to anyone is certainly a humbling experience.
Patrick Henry College understands well the danger Christians face when they choose to not look for fellowship in a Christian community. Merely going to church on Sunday does not give one the continual strengthening and encouragement that one needs. Another verse in Proverbs says that “the righteous should choose his friends carefully” (12:26 NKJV), showing that indiscriminately being with whomever you want does not bode well for a godly Christian. Patrick Henry College wing chapel easily affords you the opportunity to make strong Christian friends in the context of an uplifting environment.
I was skeptical as an incoming student to Patrick Henry College about whether I could even stand going to chapel and wing chapel that many times a week, all semester. Yet, I grew to enjoy chapel and love wing chapel. Patrick Henry College demonstrates a very long-forgotten rule: that happiness requires discipline. Whether this discipline is self-imposed or from outside does not always matter. In a sense, even the discipline at Patrick Henry College is self-imposed by the students, since it is their choice to go to the school. I have found that I am at my best when I have discipline. And for the reasons above, I found that wing chapel is no exception to the rule. By being expected to attend it twice a week, I found myself looking forward to it as a lucky break in between the chaos of college life, as well as a place where my faith could be strengthened through fellowship.