The Yale News has recently brought about rather an animated discussion of Yale's compulsory chapel exercises, the principle of which it undertakes to defend, though finding severe fault with its working in practice. The facts brought out by the discussion furnish a basis for interesting comparison between the Yale compulsory and the Harvard voluntary system of religious worship.
It appears that at Yale a naturally uninteresting chapel service is made still worse by the wrong spirit in which the students attend. They seem too often to remember that they are present only because forced to be, and to forget the nature of the ceremonies in which they take part. Their behavior consequently loses its proper devotional character, and the entire service shows a harmful want of sincerity and earnestness. The students who gather each morning in Appleton Chapel, on the contrary, are there for a purpose of their own and not from any disagreeable necessity. They come because they wish to take part in the service, and accordingly do take part so earnestly that it becomes a real act of worship instead of a mere formality devoid of significance.
It cannot be denied that the freedom from compulsion is unfortunate in one effect. It leaves room for a heedless neglect of opportunity, by which many now deprive themselves of much profit. The eminent character of the officiating ministers in Appleton Chapel, and the consequent privilege of listening to them, seems not to be always appreciated. Only recently it was said of Mr. Crothers that since Phillips Brooks, no man has shown greater depth of spiritual interpretation; yet of the students who neglected to hear him, few probably realized the chance they were throwing away. If this unfortunate heedlessness could be overcome and the large body of students brought to understand the real worth of the chapel services, no advocate of compulsory attendance could find fault with Harvard's principle of voluntary worship.