Chapel at TBC and an interview with Mr. Leporacci

Chapel is an essential part of what we do at TBC.

More than a weekly routine, chapel is a time for our students to assemble, grow spiritually, and worship the Lord together. On a typical week, TBC holds chapel three times in various formats.

Chapel Formats:

Mondays: Led by student leaders, faculty, or staff, students gather in small groups around campus.
Wednesdays: Wednesday chapels are fairly casual, and often more fun-oriented than serious. Some weeks the student officers lead the entire student body in the auditorium. Other weeks the student body meets in large groups for specific breakout sessions.
Fridays: Friday is when the entire student body gathers in the main auditorium and participates in corporate worship, including scripture reading, prayer, and singing. These sessions typically feature a guest speaker as well.

Each component of Friday chapel has a particular purpose, and it is our prayer that as students come to understand how meaningful each element is, they will get more out of their time in chapel.

TBC alumnus Jacob Leporacci (’06) directs chapel and is passionate about making it a time that is both worshipful to the Lord and beneficial to the student. Jacob is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Worship Theology from Webber Institute for Worship Studies.

Mr. Leporacci patterns the chapel schedule after what is called “the deep structure of worship”.

Essentially, this refers to three categories that serve as guides when structuring a service:

Revelation: Worship does not begin with us but begins with God. In scripture you don’t find people going to find God. God reveals himself to them. He reveals Himself to Noah; to Abraham; there is a pattern of God revealing himself. Ultimately, in the New Testament, He reveals himself through Jesus Christ. Throughout history, God pursues mankind, and mankind runs away from Him. Worship begins with God’s self-revelation.

Remember: Almost all of Israel’s worship is oriented to helping the people remember God. They are extremely forgetful. Like we are. We are constantly inundated with competing narratives. The world is constantly telling us stories about how we should live; how we fit into that story. “Live your truth”, “be who you are”, “don’t worry about what others think”, the American Dream, consumerism, advertising, … we are inundated with narratives that tell us who we are. When, in fact, who we are should be informed by who we are in Christ. And how we fit into God’s story. All worship should be communicating God’s story and reminding us how we fit into His narrative.

Respond: As God reveals himself, and as we remember who we are in light of who He is, then we have a responsibility to respond to God’s revelation of Himself, in obedience.
Keeping these things in mind as we go through the components of our Friday chapels, it becomes clear that each one is purposeful.

TBC Chapel structure

Chapel opens with a call to worship.

This is usually a scripture reading or the reading of some other text that is directly informed by scripture. Jacob explains the reason for this:

“It is God who is calling us to worship. Not me [the leader] summoning you [the attendee or congregation] into a room to listen to someone talk and sing. So, immediately, we are reoriented. ‘This is not about me. This is about God; He has called me, and He directs what happens.’”

Typically, the student body is then invited to respond.

Often it plays out like this: a leader will read something aloud [displayed on the chapel screens] and the congregation responds by reading the following line out loud. This is another way to get the entire congregation (in this case, the student body), engaged and participating outside of just the singing.

After the reading and response, the chapel band leads the congregation in singing.

Again, the song choice is not a random decision. The theme of the song will relate to what was mentioned in the call to worship. Jacob emphasizes the importance of thinking through the purpose of the song.

“When I think of the music side of worship, I think through the function of that music or song. It functions in a very particular way in the order of service.

…we sing something that reminds us we are in His presence to worship. We choose the music very carefully. It must be theologically sound, but it also has to be singable. I tell the band, ‘The entire reason you are up there is to facilitate the singing of the people. Everything we do should be helping them sing. And if it is not, then we have a problem.’”

After singing the first song, we move into scripture reading.

This differs from the call to worship in that it is typically longer. It could possibly be an entire chapter from Psalms or some other portion of scripture that is substantial. The purpose is to read the Word of God corporately, meditate on it, and allow time for God to reveal Himself to us through it. It also reminds us of who we are in relation to God.

At this point another song is sung by the congregation in response to what was just read in scripture.

“God reveals himself to us in His word, and we respond in singing because it is one of the best ways to do that as a whole body. And it should be done with emotion – it should be a real part of us.”

After the singing and before the speaker is introduced, there is a time of corporate prayer.

This is often led by a student but on occasion it is a faculty or staff member. Mr. Leporacci invites students to lead the prayer weeks in advance. He does have one criterion:

“We ask those who participate to write out their prayers ahead of time. We do not ask them to read them (which they can if they so choose but we don’t ask them to). This is so they see their language on paper before they get up in front of everyone. There are a lot of individuals who are terrified to pray spontaneously in public. Given the opportunity to think it through in advance alleviates that pressure. The student is still expressing their genuine thoughts and feelings without the intimidation of having to think of it in the moment. Often, when a student learns they can write it down in advance, their reaction is ‘Oh, ok, I can do that!’, and they are more than happy to participate.”

(The idea of writing down prayers in advance sometimes raises concerns about sincerity – this concern is addressed later in the interview.)

After the prayer, the speaker takes the platform and delivers the sermon or leads the thematic talk, interview, or panel, whatever the case may be.

At the close of chapel, we participate one more time corporately: we call it “the sending”.

The sending is a reading similar to the call to worship. It is our closing response that also serves as a reminder that He is sending us out into our community to live out what we just heard and experienced.
Mr. Leporacci describes it as our final response and acknowledgement: “As a student body (not necessarily as individuals) we acknowledge together: ‘We have heard You, seen You revealed, remembered who we are, and now will go… to flesh it out in the world’.”

This liturgical approach to the structure of Friday chapel often provokes questions from both students and parents.

Some out of curiosity, others out of legitimate concern. Rightly so. We should always be able to give an account for how we conduct ourselves.

[It is worth noting that while the structure of Friday chapel can be perceived as very conservative, the service is a blend of traditional and contemporary practices. This is evidenced primarily in the style of music used. A link to this semester’s chapel playlist is available at the end of this article.]

Three of the most common questions we encounter are specifically addressed below.

Q&A with Mr. Leporacci:

Question: Doesn’t reading a prayer diminish its sincerity?

Mr. Leporacci: We have wrongfully linked together spontaneity and sincerity. Of course, that doesn’t make any sense because then anything that has ever been written is no longer sincere. I actually would argue that if you take the time to think through it, you’re probably much more likely to be sincere than just rambling on! Students write papers because that shows what they really think and understand, instead of getting into a random argument and saying something smart. [By writing out a prayer] You have a greater probability of using a variety of names for God. Using more sound theology, deeper theology, using more attributes, instead of common Christian clichés that we don’t even know what they mean.

Question: Why hold to traditional/liturgical practices? (It may seem unusual for a church or school of Baptist doctrine to practice such traditional things as responsive readings and written prayers.)

Mr. Leporacci: The definition of “liturgy” is literally ‘the work of the people’. So, you should be doing something in worship – not have something done to you. We use the formative rituals because we recognize their power to help form us and shape us.

Question: Why require students to attend a local church? Isn’t chapel basically church?

Mr. Leporacci: A lot of people see this [chapel] and think we’re doing all the same things we do in church so this is a church service. Well, yes, we do a lot of those same things because we recognize that [they are] formative. They are ways that we are reminded how we fit into God’s story. They are not unique to or limited to church. We use some of those same things in small groups. We don’t call that church either.

There are many similarities between chapel and a church service. Singing, praying, reading, preaching, teaching… these are all commonly used practices… but we are not structured as a church: we don’t have bishops, pastors, elders. We don’t practice the Lord’s Supper or baptizing. We are not a local body, caring for widows. The established structure of a church is not being carried out.

That is why we have a variety of people who come in to speak. Speakers that we wouldn’t necessarily find in church. That is another really important distinction between chapel and church. We recognize that chapel forms us spiritually in an academic community, for life, ministry, and success in academics.
(A guest speaker could be a preacher or pastor, a leader in the social/non-profit sector, or even a Christian businessperson. A variety of guest speakers creates greater opportunity for students to connect with and be inspired by Christian individuals who are out there in the real world, paving the way for our students to follow.)

Questions are welcome.

Mr. Leporacci encourages students to approach him and discuss any concerns they have about chapel. Trinity Baptist College students benefit from his knowledge and desire to lead students in sincere worship each week.

Student participation is encouraged.

Students who are interested in playing an instrument, lead a scripture reading, pray, or being involved in any other way are strongly encouraged to reach out to Mr. Leporacci.

Check out the chapel playlist.

We have created a Spotify playlist where you can listen to the song selections that are being used in chapel this semester. >>> https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2Lzx3UONUFe44XNeUZmBZo

Check it out – you might discover a new favorite!
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About Mr. Leporacci

Originally from Rhode Island, Jacob Leporacci earned his bachelor’s degree Trinity Baptist College in 2006. He also holds a M.C.M. from Pensacola Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Worship Theology from Webber Institute for Worship Studies.

As Assistant Professor of Music his responsibilities include teaching Piano, Voice, Theory, and Church Music. Additionally, he directs several campus ensembles.

Professor Leporacci is an accomplished pianist, gifted singer, and talented arranger. He has served as a worship leader and has conducted choir clinics and piano workshops in several cities throughout the United States, including New York, San Diego, and Washington D.C.

Jacob and his wife Maylynn are proud parents of three children. They also own Leporacci Music Ministries (http://www.leporaccimusic.com) travel extensively as performers, and are in frequent demand in various venues and churches throughout the country.

In his free time, Mr. Leporacci enjoys reading, swimming, and following politics.

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