Faces of Worship

New students entering Walla Walla College (WWC) this fall are faced with many decisions. Beyond class schedules, significant others, and how much to study for that biology test, students may also find that for the first time they can choose a worship style of their own.

In any given week on the WWC campus, there are four church services, six nightly worship services, one early morning option, 14 regular Sabbath Schools, vespers, chapel, and various sacred musical events. Here’s a look at some of the most popular:

First Serve is a contemporary service held in the College Church. It began as a way to connect with those who prefer a more informal service and modern praise music. But that doesn’t mean it is less informal about its place in the church. “The name ‘First Serve’ was chosen to express a commitment for those involved to first serve before anything else—to emphasize the service part of the Christian walk,” says Kris Loewen, a WWC graduate who helped begin the program.

A student-run church service and one of the most widely attended student gatherings on campus, The Awakening began as an evening worship option, designed to target students who weren’t attending any type of worship. “We saw a need for a more upbeat, energetic worship program on campus—one that inspired more participation and involvement from students,” says Troy Ahrens, one of The Awakening’s founding members and WWC assistant chaplain. Due to its unique structure and low-key yet energized atmosphere, the service quickly grew in popularity. Now held in the Melvin K. West Fine Arts Center at the same time as the College Church’s second service, it is often so crowded that students arriving more than 30 minutes early still can’t find a seat.

Another student-led option is an evening worship service held once a week in Heubach Chapel where students gather together simply to sing. The service takes place entirely in the dark, with just a guitar and a few candles to light the chapel. Emily Schmidt, a senior religion major, often attends worship in Heubach Chapel. “I love Heubach because it’s informal,” she says. “There are a bunch of people in the room, and yet it feels like you’re all by yourself and don’t have to impress anyone.”

A long-standing tradition at Adventist schools, vespers is still a popular service for students. Vespers often showcases guest speakers and can be one of the few times a week that on- and off-campus students join together with faculty, staff and community members to praise God.

The multifaceted approach to worship allows everyone to feel involved. Chaplain Lois Blackwelder says she has heard from many parents who are thrilled that their son or daughter has found a worship service to get excited about. “Take The Awakening, for example,” Blackwelder says. “Even if it’s not necessarily the type of worship the parents would have chosen, it’s still church, and everyone is blessed.”

October 01, 2006 / Walla Walla University