The worship credit controversy
Most Unionites will eventually complain about worship credits. Why should Union keep track of your relationship with God via ID cards and scanners? The answer is surprising, to say the least.
I came into writing this article thinking, “We need to grab worship credits and throw them on the ground. They’re putting a number to my worship and I hate it. If anything, this system is doing a disservice to Adventist college students’ relationship with God.”
Now, let me show you my worship credit conversion.
Your parents are sending you to an Adventist school for a reason. If they wanted you to be in a secular university they could do so for much cheaper. Maybe you’re coming to Union out of your own pocket—you chose an Adventist institution for a reason. How does the administration here ensure you’re getting your money’s worth?
While sitting with Pastor Rich, I quickly learned his stance on this issue. He is, in no way, trying to tie students down by monitoring their worship. While a student at Union College, Pastor Rich and his classmates were required to attend each and every religious event—yes, each day, several times a day, for the entire year. For those of you who think 35 required credits a year is a deal-breaker—hold this in perspective.
So, pastor Rich and colleagues have refined the system as best they could. They have held on to the need for a Seventh-day Adventist Christian environment, while liberating students by encouraging them to have a relationship with God for themselves.
Pastor Rich passionately related, “I don’t think that not going to vespers means someone has a better or worse relationship with God, but how can we keep track of 800-900 students? Its not possible. Scanning just makes it easier for me. If I only had eight kids to watch for family worship, I wouldn’t scan them in. We scan because there are so many of you.”
If I might add, if we’re going to attend an Adventist school, shouldn’t we hold on to that which allows us to remain distinguishably Adventist?
Sitting down with Dr. Linda Becker, I listened to her stance on this issue. I began by asking her what the purpose of worship credits is and she pointed out the uniqueness of Union College versus UNL and other non-faith-based institutions. “Something we [covenant] to give you is God time...because you are here. Nobody can make you worship—that’s your choice if you worship, but what we can do is provide moments in your day where you can think about God and let God work.”
Students should take pride in this statement—your school strives to open the door where you and God can kick it. More so, its not just about being one-on-one with God, its also about being with a community of fellow believers. “We play together, we worship together.” Dr. Becker discussed the maturing process in college and Union’s vision to see students develop their personal relationship with God.
Something unique to Union’s worship credit system is that it is not confined to our card-scanning system.
Campus Ministries and other administration staff have designed a program called HeartScan. HeartScan is for any student who has met all of their worship credit requirements freshman year and wants to step out of the card-scanning ritual.
A student can pick up a HeartScan application in Campus Ministries, give it to pastor Rich, have Dr. Becker sign it for approval, and enter this mentorship program. Every other week, a student will sit down with their mentor, a faculty member, and talk about life and God and school. The HeartScan program is an alternative to scanning your ID card for worship credits. Union College administration strongly encourages this program because it allows you to take your relationship with God to another level, in a different way.
Whatever your perspective on worship credits is, know that Union’s leaders want the best for your relationship with God–not by force, coercion, or manipulation, but by grace, freedom, and mentorship. And if you’ve built barriers to keep yourself from receiving a blessing from religious events, may you now allow it to reach you through its relevance.
I know the system isn’t perfect, but it’s good.
Abner is a sophomore studying theology.