How worship services grew a student's faith

Editor's note: Senior Cassandra Coria had never attended a worship service at GCU before this fall. The experience transformed her faith. This is her story.

One day after church, my younger brother asked my dad, “Where do you see God?”

My dad responded, “I see God in everything.”

As a young girl, I was taken aback. What did he just say? How can God be in everything?  

But this fall, when I went to the four major Grand Canyon University worship services – Chapel, spiritual formation workshop, The Gathering and Sanctuary – for the first time, it helped me realize God surrounds us, and I see Him more than I realize.  

I knew I wanted to gain a relationship with Christ, and that is why I chose GCU. But you have to put some effort into that relationship. I had to learn that it all comes down to spending a few hours out of your day with Christ and being attentive toward Him.  

The bright lights of Chapel were a new experience for someone who grew up in the Catholic church. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Chapel

The guest speaker that day, Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, was honest about his poor choices before he found Christ and talked vividly about the moment God came into his life. The Worship team provided a preview when it sang, “You turn shame into glory.”  

Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch speaks to Chapel. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

I knew I was meant to be there for a simple reason. My favorite word is hallelujah, and the second song included this line: “Hallelujah … the one who set me free.” I soaked it in with a smile as my friends sang.  

I grew up in the Catholic church, where the Mass is not a production with bright lights. Instead, it features natural lighting and a quiet atmosphere.

Chapel is different, and it took me awhile to get comfortable with swaying my body. It still takes me a couple of songs as I continue to attend. However, the words strike the same nerve.  

I could feel Christ. I could feel His presence in GCU Arena, but I still wanted to hear Him.  

Kelsie Doan conceived and leads the spiritual formation workshop on Monday afternoons. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Spiritual formation workshop

My timing was perfect. Kelsie Doan, the workshop’s creator and teacher, speaks on a particular topic for two weeks at a time, and the topic during this stretch was just what I longed to hear – being in communion with Christ rather than just communication.

The first Monday, we discussed it in the Prayer Chapel. We spent the session the following week with Spiritual Life leaders, then were separated into groups.  

Students listen intently during the spiritual formation workshop. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

As a group, we listened to “Voice of God” by Dante Bowe as we read the book of Psalms. 

As Psalms 6:6 says:

I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.  

The book of Psalms is unbelievably relatable. It is a reminder of why we lay our worries onto God, why we choose to pray and why we follow the Lord.  

To be in communion with God, we can read the Bible, listen to Christian music or just sit in silence. Even if we do not hear anything, it does not mean He is not there.  

Sitting in silence with a group of strangers, worshipping and believing in the same thing was the most powerful experience I have ever had.  

As I grow in my relationship with the Lord, I am mindful of the words in John 10:1-3:

We need to know our Shepherd’s voice in times where it is not His.

I have moments where I see God in nature, but on that day I wrote in my notebook that I feel as if I’m in a movie. It felt so perfect.  

As I stared at the trees outside with “Voice of God” playing in the background, I listened for the voice of God and felt overwhelmingly thankful. 

Students pack Antelope Gymnasium for The Gathering. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

The Gathering

At each worship service, I had feelings of safety and community. I was not ashamed to rejoice in the Lord. But The Gathering is what brought me the feeling of safety.

Before you enter Antelope Gymnasium, members of the Worship team greet you with a tunnel of high fives. As the gym fills, it is overcome with conversations, like a school of busy fish.  

The countdown on the screen builds the anticipation, and the room grows quiet. There is a shift in the atmosphere.  

A student joyfully rejoices in the spirit of The Gathering (Photo by Ralph Freso).

The Worship team opens with songs, just like always, and I start to feel more anxious. I’ve never been here before except for class, and the gym feels so compact.  

I grip my notebook because that’s my comfort blanket. My arm is sweaty and has indentations from my notebook as I stand in the center of the room. I start to get emotional because I take a second to look on either side of me. Students fill the bleachers, all singing as one. 

Have you ever taken a step back and looked at what was around you? The people, the music, those people’s expressions – it’s beautiful. It can be a memory you hold onto forever.

The focus this semester is on the book of Exodus. Doan shares the story of Moses in Chapter 2, Verse 1 – how a Levite woman birthed a son and decided to keep him even though she was told not to.

When she could no longer hide her baby, she put him in a basket and placed it among the reeds along the bank of the River Nile. Pharoah’s daughter found the baby and named him Moses. 

The Levite woman chose to put her baby in a particular spot and hoped someone would care for it. Then Pharoah’s daughter could have said, “Maybe someone else will do it.” In the same vein, Christians are encouraged to serve when no one else will. 

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” The book of Exodus opens our hearts and minds to think in the same way.  

Doan left the audience with a suggestion: Reach out to someone you have not spoken to in a while. I encourage you to do that, too.  

Sanctuary is a darker, quieter, more contemplative worship service on Thursday nights. (Photo by Braden Bell)

Sanctuary

The more I attend the spiritual events and the more I spend time with Jesus, the more I want to talk about Him as often as possible. It feels as if I am judged by others for my beliefs when I am off campus, but Sanctuary helped me put aside any shame I was feeling and increased my confidence in God's Word.   

Students can worship in whatever way suits them at Sanctuary. (Photo by Braden Bell)

Sanctuary is a quiet, intimate worship event in Sunset Auditorium, a converted church building. There is only one person singing. Everyone is spread out. You can stand or you can sit and pray – whatever makes you feel comfortable.  

That was a weight off my shoulders. Whatever made me feel comfortable.  

The focus was releasing our anxiety and our worries out loud. God already knows what is on our minds, but we said it again.  

I have never felt so vulnerable.  

I spoke and wept and was honest with myself.  

Yes, seeking God can make you feel so vulnerable, but do not forget the reward. Being surrounded by other people helped me – people you may never see again or friends who value your beliefs and give you strength.  

Whenever you choose to follow Christ, just know that He will be there for you. When you’re ready. Just as He was for me. 

****

Related content:

GCU News: Impact of students' faith felt in nearby churches

GCU News: Worship Team strikes a chord at Chapel

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

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