Chapel message gives employees virtual boost

GCU President Brian Mueller's talk to GCE Chapel on Wednesday morning was transmitted to nearly 500 employees via Zoom and Facebook.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau

It is a time when people need to hear something positive, something thoughtful, something hopeful. They need someone to tell them that everything is going to be all right.

“This is such a strange time, isn’t it?” Grand Canyon Education Pastor Jim Miller said Wednesday morning. “It certainly is unprecedented – I know that word is being thrown around a lot. It feels like everything is in upheaval, doesn’t it? A lot of uncertainty out there.

GCE Pastor Jim Miller wanted to keep his monthly Chapel service going despite the work interruption caused by the coronavirus.

“My wife and I were talking about this this morning. Almost all of that has to do with the future. What’s going to happen in the future? What’s this going to look like a week from now, a month from now, a year from now? It’s those questions – the unknown, the uncertainty – that really get to us.”

Miller was speaking at GCE’s monthly Chapel service in its roomy downstairs lecture hall. But with the vast majority of employees working from home because of the coronavirus outbreak, his audience was mainly on Zoom and Facebook – nearly 500 listeners in all, their comments scrolling down the laptop in front of him.

It was a small victory in the COVID-19 fight but a victory just the same. And the biggest win of all was yet to come.

When it became apparent that virtually no one in GCE’s offices at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road would be around for the regular third-Wednesday-of-the-month gathering, Miller at first thought he would have to cancel. But it just so happened that the guest speaker was scheduled to be Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller – it seemed like divine intervention.

From left, Cindy Land-Rowe, Jessica Foncannon and Ruth Douthitt performed three songs for Chapel, including one Foncannon wrote herself.

Then Miller received confirmation that the members of the Chapel band – Art Director Jessica Foncannon, Student Services Counselor Cindy Rand-Lowe and Curriculum Developer Ruth Douthitt – were willing to perform in person.

“I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t do it,” Miller said. “The technology gives us the chance to do stuff like this. Once they were willing to come in, I said, ‘Why not?’”

Mueller certainly was willing – and had something important to say.

In an emotional talk, Mueller urged employees to muster every bit of compassion they can find in these troubled times.

“You are impacting, spiritually, over 100,000 people on an everyday basis,” he said, adding together GCU’s totals of ground and online students. “… The people that you’re working with – whether you’re providing counseling services or financial aid or admissions or however you’re helping them – they have a lot of chaos in other parts of their life. You can bring some level of stability to their lives.”

Brian Mueller urged employees to look for ways they can help students and the community during this national crisis.

Mueller laid out three reasons why GCU and GCE employees should be grateful:

  • He estimated that about 90% of them are working from home, as protected as they can be from the virus.
  • They can keep working and earning a paycheck, unlike so many people in service industries who suddenly have no income.
  • Most importantly, they are in position to help others.

That last point is a key part of Mueller’s focus these days. He views this as an opportunity to serve students and the community, not unlike GCU’s mission when the campus is busy and life is normal.

“I think we have an opportunity to be a powerful witness,” he said. “If we can model the best that we can in this fallen world in the upcoming time, I think some good will come out of this.”

The talk did some good for him as well.

“To have a time like this is really important, and I’m thankful for Pastor Jim and everybody who put this together,” he said. “We need to figure out ways to do more of this. It keeps us centered.”

That’s exactly what Miller wants to do. The success of Wednesday’s virtual Chapel got him thinking about future possibilities during the coming weeks – maybe even 15 minutes of prayer time.

“The main thing is I want people to feel supported,” he said.

But he also just wants to be around people again.

“I’m going crazy because very little of my job is sitting in front of the computer,” he said. “It’s always people. That’s what I do – talk to people. It gets to be about 12:30 or so and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m so tired of not talking to people. I’m an extrovert. There’s nobody around.’ I’m missing the interaction.”

Clearly, a lot of other people were missing it, too.

● To watch Wednesday's GCE Chapel service, click here.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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