Who goes to chapel at St. Olaf College — and why

Take a little spiritual and musical break

I’m walking through campus, and around 11 a.m. I hear the Boe Memorial Chapel bells ringing. I head in to find several dozen students, faculty and administrators in the pews.

Hear my call

Junior music and psychology major Catherine Oliver tells me these late-morning chapels aren’t full services, just 30 minutes or so of singing, music, and usually faculty or student speakers.

After a short hymn, senior Eric Klein talks about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. No sermonizing here. Klein talks casually, using humor, personal experiences and everyday language to relate the message that “God accepts sinners.”

Chapel is a funny little thing here. St. Olaf has a Lutheran tradition, and clearly a number of people seek out its refuge. But students say the campus is not an especially spiritual place. Oliver said practically everyone attends — but most just a few times a year.

She’s Catholic, and like a lot of her classmates, she says, she goes once a week or so for the music — or just a break.

She tells me:

“Everyone is stressed out here, so chapel is a stress reliever.”