A topic of much discussion, usually on a Friday at about ten o'clock, is why Somerset College offers a chapel service for all students and interested staff members.
As those who are normally discussing the topic are students who have not particularly enjoyed - or found value - in the service, the commentary is often negative. Recently I have thought about why Somerset College offers a chapel service that is compulsory to all students, even though the College strives to be an environment that is welcoming and friendly to all religious groups. Surely favouring one religious group above the others is a contradiction to this ethos?
The first reason that comes to mind, and most likely, to the minds of others is that Somerset College is a Christian school. The College strives not only to give each student the necessary knowledge to handle the world, but also to bestow on each student a sound set of moral values that will enrich both their own and the lives of others. This is a worthy goal; surely it is worth the less than an hour that is spent on it every week?
However, as I thought further on the subject, in large part due to the inevitable discussion on the subject every Friday, I started to realised that there was another reason that the College holds a chapel service every week. Tradition. Chapel services are, not only in South Africa but in many other schools around the world, an expected part of school life. In almost every school I have heard of there are a few certainties: Assembly on Mondays, homework during the week and Chapel on Fridays.
I have never heard this reason spoken out loud before and I don't think that it is often recognized, or particularly appreciated when it is. It would seem odd for a prestigiuos school, like Somerset College, not to have a Chapel service at least once a week. Now that I have had this thought, I can't help but wonder if this isn't the real reason why we have Chapel every Friday. If this is the case, the argument that the aim of Chapel is to teach a sound moral system seems less meaningful. However, I think that there are ways to put this time to valuable use.
I don't think that Chapel should be removed as a part of College life. The moral lessons brought across by medium of religion are valuable and life enhancing. I just think that it should be every person's own choice on the way that they want to go about acquiring them. The saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink"; forcing students who gain nothing from Chapel services to attend them causes resentment and achieves nothing. Giving students the choice of whether to attend Chapel or not will make it more valuable for those who do go as they can be sure that they are going for their own benefit and not in order to uphold the school's reputation.