(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Nov. 14, 2012) An hour previously reserved for a weekly chapel service at California Lutheran University has been revamped as a Sabbath hour when students and staff are encouraged to take time for spiritual rest and reflection in any of a variety of ways.
This fall, to accommodate more classes, the growing university moved its weekly chapel service from the Wednesday morning slot it had held for 43 years to 11:25 a.m. Thursdays. The Office of Campus Ministry used the change as an opportunity to roll out new resources to encourage students and staff to use the hour from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Thursdays to hit pause in their busy lives, regardless of their spiritual backgrounds. No classes or official meetings are scheduled during the hour.
A labyrinth for walking and contemplation was recently built behind Samuelson Chapel with support from student groups.
University Pastor Melissa Maxwell-Doherty and former Associated Students of CLU President Jesse McClain added prayer mats, cushions, incense and several sacred texts to the Wennes Interfaith Meditation Chapel, which is open 24 hours a day. The texts include Qurans in English and Arabic, Hebrew-English Jewish scriptures (Tanach), the Upanishads, the Lotus Sutra, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Spanish-language Nueva Biblia, Buddhist scriptures and “Teachings of the Sikh Gurus.”
Campus Ministry staff posted additional resources for the weekly Sabbath hour on the university’s website. Directions are provided for divine reading, walking tours through campus, and prayer and reflection on the day’s headlines. Other suggestions include praying the psalms, visiting one of 25 quiet spaces on campus, journal writing and focused breathing.
Since CLU opened its doors in 1961, classes and meetings haven’t been scheduled during chapel services so that everyone could attend. In the beginning, students and faculty were required to attend 20-minute chapel services each weekday while administrative offices, the library, bookstore, coffee shop and College Union Building were closed. The requirement was lifted for faculty in 1965 and for students in 1967, and optional daily services gave way to a weekly Wednesday morning service in 1969.
Current students at CLU, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, come from more than 30 faith backgrounds. Of those who identify a religious denomination, 106 students are Muslim, 90 are Jewish, 31 are Buddhist and 17 are Hindu. Eleven percent of students identify themselves as Lutheran. The largest group is Catholic at 23 percent. Thirty-nine percent had no response or marked that they were non-affiliated or non-denominational.