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Studying Worship on Seminary Campuses: Seminary Chapel Websites

This list is a select review of items of interest found on seminary worship websites, organized according to common themes: Customaries, Denominational Diversity, Stylistic Variety, Curricular Integration, and Other issues.

Annotated URL list – Items of interest to be found at Seminary Chapel Webpages

This list is not a comprehensive catalog of all the webpages one might browse in order to get a sense of what is going on in the world of seminary worship. It is, instead, a select review of items of interest found on such pages, organized according to common themes: Customaries, Denominational Diversity, Stylistic Variety, Curricular Integration, and Other issues.

Customaries (esp. pp. 66-71)


At seminaries of what are sometimes called liturgically conservative churches (e.g. Episcopalian and Lutheran), the community often gathers at least five times per week, and all students participate in chapel leadership on a scheduled rotation. Worship in this tradition follows specific patterns, such as those laid out in the Book of Common Prayer. To these guidelines, many seminaries add their own local instructions (collected in what are sometimes called customaries) that provide helpful detail for those leading worship – detail down to drawings of the chapel and where each person should stand and the paths they should take to walk from chair to communion table, for example. At the website of the Episcopalian Seminary of the Southwest you can see one such customary, as well as additional materials, including worship planning sheets, a list of chapel duties, and even a recommended communion bread recipe.

Even in less liturgically conservative churches, many seminaries find it helpful to lay out guidelines and instructions for students and guests involved in worship planning and leadership. Such customaries (whether called by that name or not) can be seen at the websites for the Colgate Rochester-Crozer Divinity School (see esp. pp. 66-71), at North Park Theological Seminary, and at New Brunswick Theological Seminary. 

Note at NBTS how the customary (“Worship Manual”) deals not only with issues of worship forms (detailing both a historical Reformed order with other orders more familiar to its diverse urban constituency), but also deals with very practical considerations like musical copyright and inclusive language. Note also how the customary at North Park offers substantial and clear theological undergirding for the worship program as well as practical expectations for worship, and how Colgate clearly lays out a mission statement for the chapel program that underscores issues of ecumenism and education.

Denominational Diversity


Some seminaries are deeply rooted in a particular denominational tradition, and still serve primarily one constituency. Others hold on to their roots, but have branched out to serve an increasingly ecumenical student-body. Still other seminaries began their lives as ecumenical or non-denominational institutions. But all seminaries – like so many churches – are struggling with the tensions of finding unity in increasingly diverse contexts. 

At the Theological School at Drew University, a school with a strong Methodist heritage, worship experiences “reflect the diversity of denominational traditions, theological perspectives, and cultural influences represented in the …Theological School.” Princeton Theological Seminary, a school of the Presbyterian Church (USA), holds on to its reformed traditions, especially when celebrating the Lord’s Supper, but also declares its commitment to ecumenicity through its community worship. 

Other schools, such as Union Theological Seminary in New York lift up diversity as the singular characteristic of our ministry contexts, and the Divinity School at Yale have developed customaries in which the values of ecumenical learning in patience and love are enshrined. Schools like Gordon-Conwell and Fuller Theological Seminary manage the tension between denominational formation and ecumenical unity by having a single unified mid-week service, and opportunities during the rest of the week for particular traditions to meet and pass on their traditions and values.

Stylistic Variety


Many churches found an uneasy truce in the last decade’s “worship wars” by splitting, along stylistic lines, into two worshipping groups, sometimes labeled with terms like “traditional” and “contemporary.” Some seminaries, too, offer multiple worship opportunities throughout the week based on musical idiom and expressive style. At the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, there are two primary services, Kairos and a Word & Table service. Planning sheets and examples for both can be found at the seminary website. At Garrett Evangelical Seminary (another school with a Methodist heritage), there are three stylistically distinguished services: Word & Table, Gospel, and “Worship With a Beat.” Of course, experimental services happen at nearly every seminary, from quiet, meditative Taizé services at San Francisco Theological Seminary to Hip-hop worship at Perkins.

Curricular Integration (see esp. p. 200 ff.)


Seminaries are places of worship, but they are fundamentally places of education and formation for pastors and other church leaders. Protestant seminaries have only begun, in the past 30 years or so, to recognize the importance of teaching worship-related classes in seminary. This is a good first step. But seminary practice still varies widely in the extent to which professors of worship are involved in regular worship planning, and the extent to which classes on worship feed into practical experience and guided theological reflection on actual worship services. 

Some seminaries, like Asbury Theological Seminary, have extensive course offerings in worship. Some seminaries, like Southeastern Baptist, offer both a Master of Arts (M.A.), and the classic “pastor” degree – the Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) – with a concentration in Worship. Some seminaries, like Northern Baptist, and Phillips, offer for-credit practicum courses for students who plan chapel. Still others, like Bethany, offer worship-leader evaluation forms that any student might use.

Other Issues

While the above material highlights a handful of common themes, there are many other items of interest for the curious browser of seminary chapel websites. Here are some particularly interesting pages:

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary deals with issues surrounding the construction of a new chapel building:

An entire semester of seminary chapel built around the Psalms at Beeson Divinity School:

The Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago highlights ecological issues in chapel:

Attendance is required at Dallas Theological Seminary:, and non-attendance is penalized at Erskine:

Get a closer look and listen; download podcasts and vodcasts of Seminary Chapel at Luther Seminary: