The darkness hung low like the slate grey clouds in the air as cars transported students to Covenant College’s bi-annual Day of Prayer sunrise service at Rock City on Feb. 7. Around 7:15 a.m., Luke Harvey (‘17) led his fellow students in song. Steadily, the sun tinted the dark world with white and yellow light.
Hosted by Psi Chi, Covenant’s psychology honors society, the sunrise service has functioned as the beginning of Day of Prayer for several decades. At its beginning, the campus encouraged various departments to meet at sunrise on campus. However, when recently-retired professor Dr. Rulon was a relatively new professor at Covenant, he began taking psychology students early to watch the sunrise off-campus.
“Our group was probably less than 20, but we were informed that location was private property and had to leave after praying,” Dr. Rulon remembers, “I don't recall how I made contact with Bill Chapin, the president of Rock City Gardens, nor does he, and asked if we could come to Rock City for prayer prior to their opening.”
“I guess other groups dropped out of meeting at sunrise, and so eventually our group became the only group advertised to meet for sunrise,” Rulon continued, “Psi Chi students took over publicizing and running it, and somehow it became the only thing publicized at sunrise and so it grew. Bill Chapin has been extremely generous with opening his gates and allowing us to go to the overlook each semester.”
Now, the sunrise service functions as a moment in time where students can join with one another to sing praise to God, pray in his name, watch the promise of light spread into the sky, and celebrate the hope the light symbolizes with donuts and hot chocolate.
After song, prayer, and eating donuts, the students steadily dispersed from Rock City, many joining their halls for breakfast down the mountain while others journeyed up Carter Tower, to bed, or to locations around campus in prayer.
The previous day, Feb. 6, Chaplain Lowe emailed the campus a list of the following day’s events and an attachment entitled “2.7.17 Day of Prayer Booklet.” Although its hymns, prayers, and Bible passages may at first suggest that this prayer book is no different from the daily offices that Chaplain Lowe has emailed in past semesters, a closer inspection reveals otherwise.
This prayer book is unscheduled. This means that all who participated in Day of Prayer prayed and sang and read the Scriptures compiled by Residence Life and the Chapel Department at various times, unlike the daily offices which were held at specific times throughout the day.
Though this may seem like an insignificant detail, this small step is a step in a slightly new direction.
Another indicator of this small step is the paper prayer walls. These walls were constructed in each residence hall and in the Chapel in order to pull the Covenant community closer together in our specific locations. Lydia Berglar (‘18) said, “I loved the prayer walls. They gave you a quiet space and time to read specific topics for prayer including world issues and individual needs at Covenant.”
Historically, Covenant’s Day of Prayer has been held in order to provide a day where the Covenant community may rest in God’s promises even as they pray these promises together. This has specifically manifested in hall events that encouraged prayer together. Slowly, however, this vision is broadening to include more members within our Covenant community. Next year, this change may continue, but Chaplain Lowe seeks to keep Day of Prayer the same in its spirit and in much of its tradition.
Again, the sun will rise up over the earth to bring light into the darkness, and students will celebrate its arrival with prayer and praise to God.