“We praise you, O God, we acclaim you as Lord!” Chills run down my spine. One unified, strong, and hauntingly beautiful voice completely surrounds me. But it’s 120 voices that sing—120 who are one body, proudly proclaiming the Lord of Life. A real and present model of the very next words, “all creation worships you, Father everlasting!” Where am I? I’m standing at the altar of the seminary chapel, surrounded by its U-shaped formation of chairs filled with men and women singing not merely for beauty or vocal exercise but to declare the faith embedded in their hearts. Those words? The Te Deum Laudamus, an ancient song used not only in the WLS chapel but in congregations around the globe, as it has been for some 1700 years.
It was my turn to serve as chapel leader. I was nervous, and reasonably so, to feed all those surrounding me with the word. Those worshipping include classmates who are in the word daily as well as professors who all were once fulltime parish pastors. For a whole week, I had labored over how I could best serve them with the Word. I didn’t realize how much their singing a familiar liturgical hymn would serve me.
After a year worshiping in the gym for social distancing, we were quickly reminded what a blessing we have in our acoustically live and architecturally beautiful chapel. It was good to fill that space with God’s praises throughout the first week. But today was different. Now I stood right in the central spot, where voices of juniors, middlers, seniors, professors, and staff all projected. Hearing those voices unified in one faith, one proclamation—that day was a small taste of heaven.
Sure, chapel at the seminary allows us all an opportunity to encourage our brothers and grow as preachers. But our chapel is so much more than that. Seminary students have the incredible privilege of days saturated with the word of God. We spend class after class mining its depths, applying its precepts, appreciating its amazing news for sinners. Yet, sitting at a table—a laptop before us, powerful programs at our fingertips, assignments filling our workbooks—it can be difficult to appreciate the word apart from academic exercise. What a blessing, then, that right in the center of our school day, we find the beating heart of seminary life: worship.
The seminary’s one unified voice sings ardently the end of the Te Deum: “Come then, Lord, and help your people, bought with the price of your own blood.” Just as we sang the faith we share, so we sing of our universal need for God’s help. That is the essence of our worship; God helps us in our weakness. He serves us through his gospel preached, assures us with forgiveness spoken, reminds us of the baptism we received. We recognize that without him, we wouldn’t be here. We would be without desire and strength to study day after day. We were bought with the price of Christ’s own blood, and that changes everything.
Every day, worship shapes us. The gospel emboldens us to continue hard work. Chapel reminds us, future pastors, that this word we study, these eternal truths—we need these, too. We must be fed by them. We are as reliant on the Lord for salvation and strength as anyone we’ve met or will meet in ministry. Spiritually fed ourselves, we are reminded of the great privilege it is that Christ calls us to feed others. But what’s amazing is that we are still fed even as we give worship! We’re fed as our churches join us in proudly speaking the creeds, confessing need and reliance on God, and singing gospel-rich hymns. As seminary students and pastors, we always want to remember our dependence on God and his grace, as we await the day he will “bring us with [the] saints to glory everlasting!”
Ryan Gurgel is serving as a vicar during the 2022-23 school year at Abiding Grace, Covington, GA.