Musical Worship Chapel sparks a moving experience
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
It was hard to tell who was more impressed Monday morning – Criston Moore or the estimated crowd of 6,000 in Grand Canyon University Arena.
The students were so turned on by Musical Worship Chapel, they pressed forward to the front of the stage in a scene reminiscent of what first-year students did at Ignite Worship Night a month earlier.
Moore noticed. Oh, how he noticed.
“GCU knows how to worship!” he shouted, and he had a lot more to say about it afterward.
“The entire room was just electrifying. And the energy – we were actually feeding off their energy,” the Christian recording artist, singer and songwriter said. “Today was one of the greatest times I’ve ever had.”
He first performed at Chapel last February, when the lingering pandemic, by necessity, left more cardboard cutouts than students in the Arena and the performance had to be mostly a cappella. He had a hunch it would be different this time, but little did he know …
“I suspected, but I didn’t know it would be this crowded,” he said. “This was pretty overwhelming, to be honest with you. It was beautiful to see.”
And the crowd rushing the stage and jumping to the beat of the music in unison with Moore?
“I wasn’t expecting it, but when they did, it was great,” he said. “And that made it even more electrifying for the students. In these type of worship sets, one individual can literally spark a whole row. I think that once they saw that, the whole room just started jumping.”
The campus’ Spiritual Life leaders saw the spirit of this year’s crop of students at Ignite, which featured the first stage rush ever seen at one of these events.
Dr. Tim Griffin, Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor, thought of that as the crowd got more and more into Moore’s music. But he also was happy to see another huge Chapel turnout.
“Six weeks in, students are feeling what college is all about right now. And so to have this opportunity to sing and be together and praise, the timing of it was absolutely perfect,” he said. “Students are turning out. They’re invested in it.”
Equally important was the presence of the all-student Worship team, which joined Moore onstage.
“I called them ‘The Avengers’ when I first got here. They are strong – the singers, the musicians, the tech team, everybody,” Moore said. “That is a great unit here.”
One of the key members of that unit is Amanda Riffe, one of the stars of the annual Canyon Worship albums. She further electrified the audience with her moving solo about halfway through the one-hour performance, and she certainly drew extra inspiration from the extraordinary crowd, too.
“It was kind of unexpected because usually Monday mornings are really chill, depending on how much coffee people had,” she said, laughing. “It was very reminiscent of Ignite, which was really crazy.
“I just was super excited to see that people were coming ready to worship and jump around and get excited. They weren’t just coming to spectate.”
Indeed. It was full participation.
“This is one of those services that you will get to sing and sing and sing,” Griffin told them before the music started, and they took him seriously from start to finish.
Griffin had the perfect Bible reading for an event of this nature. Psalm 66:1-5 reads:
Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of His name;
make His praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!
So great is Your power
that your enemies cringe before You.
All the earth bows down to You;
they sing praise to You,
they sing the praises of your name.”
Come and see what God has done,
His awesome deeds for mankind!
The students sang and sang and sang right through to the final song, when at Moore’s behest they just kept singing these lyrics over and over and over:
“I’m gonna see a victory, I’m gonna see a victory. For the battle belongs to You, Lord.”
It didn’t end because anyone wanted it to end. It ended because, well, students had to eat lunch eventually.
“Man, it’s hard to leave y’all,” Moore told them.
He later explained why:
“There’s an authentic worship style here that I’m honestly honored to even be called to. It already resides in the students. I’m just here to help with the movement of it. But they’ve already got it. It’s amazing here.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
To hear the music of the Worship team and the Musical Worship Chapel in its entirety, click here.
The Gathering speaker (7 p.m. Tuesday, Antelope Gymnasium): Kelsie Doan, GCU Spiritual Life
Next Chapel speaker (11 a.m. Monday): Ashley Wooldridge, Christ’s Church of the Valley