Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 welcomed students Tuesday at the first chapel of the fall semester, encouraging them to take the opportunity to develop wisdom in a season of caution.
The first chapel of the academic year usually serves as an opening convocation and features a parade of faculty in full academic regalia and more than a thousand students and employees packed into Harbison Chapel, but under the College’s COVID-19 guidelines the gothic church’s capacity was set at about 200 masked and socially-distanced students. The rest of the College’s more than 2,200 students watched remotely in other auditoriums on campus or on their phones or school-issued laptops.
“What a joy it is to be here together,” McNulty said. “Usually this is a day of pomp and circumstance. Today we decided to skip the pomp and have just a little circumstance.”
The College’s ninth president acknowledged the challenge of resuming in-person instruction and residential life on campus in the time of the pandemic, which in the spring forced the College to send students home and shift to online instruction.
Being back on campus has obvious social, academic, extracurricular and intuitional benefits for a community of learners, McNulty said. “But our appreciation for being together physically is based on something deeper than these benefits. Something deeper that goes on here. Something very important. Something that carries eternal significance. We talk about it all the time when students come to visit. It is often described as transformational,” he said. “But another way to describe what is special here … is wisdom development. We are about trying to help students develop wisdom that is broader and deeper than just the acquisition of knowledge.”
Acquiring the “wisdom from above,” described in the Bible as pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, is the challenge of a Grove City College education, McNulty said. “Our ultimate goal is not just having a COVID-free campus – and I have every faith and hope that we will – but we won’t have been successful this semester if we haven’t grown in wisdom,” he said. “That’s why coming back together again matters so much. It has never been just about learning stuff, but about becoming who we are meant to be.”
Tuesday’s chapel also served as introduction for the College’s new Chaplain & Senior Director of Christian Formation Dr.Donald D. Opitz, who led students in prayer. Opitz, known as “Pastor O,” will give his first chapel talk on Thursday.
At Grove City College, chapel is an important part of campus life. Offered twice a week, the brief service is a way to enhance Christian formation and reinforce the value of communal worship. Students must attend a minimum of 16 times per semester, though this semester the chapel credit requirement has been reduced to 10 to reduce crowd size in light of the pandemic.
Watch chapel online at gcc.edu/livestream.