Story by Laurie Merrill
Photos by Slaven Gujic
GCU News Bureau
In an event as moving as it was momentous, thousands of Grand Canyon University students prayed, sang and worshiped as one during the annual Ignite ceremony Wednesday night.
It’s the fifth year the Worship Team has led the event, which takes place in both GCU Arena and on the Quad and is intended to unite and inspire new freshmen and returning students alike.
But there was something extra special about this year’s event. It was held on the Wednesday of Welcome Week, instead of Tuesday, which could explain the exceptional attendance. Also, because of high winds, students turned on cell phone lights instead of lighting candles.
“It was an unbelievable turnout,” said Dr. Tim Griffin, Pastor and Dean of Students. “We have some incredible students who have decided to come to this University, and everybody was singing and participating.
“There’s something unique about the class of 2021.”
A transformative energy could be felt during the hour that the Chapel Worship Band alternated between praying and playing music in the Arena.
“We’re praying in faith, we’re growing in expectation,” one Chapel Worship Band member said. “We pray that we be the people You want us to be. … Give us rest, give us peace, give us peace in the calm before the storm.”
When the band launched into music, it was as if a switch came on and the audience rose to its feet as one.
“We love worship nights,” said sophomore Gabby Singleton from San Jose, Calif. “It’s good music and it’s also worshipful. You can feel the fire.”
The energy built as the band played songs with lyrics such as, “You are alive in us. Nothing can take Your place,” “You are, You are, You are my freedom” and “who can stop the Lord almighty.”
When the band played “Wake,” with lines including, “You will never fade away. Your love is here to stay. By my side in my life, shining through me every day,” the noise level of the singing students reached a crescendo.
The performance ended with a prayer for the freshmen, and as students moved to the Quad for the lighting ceremony, there was more than one tear shed.
“It was really emotional,’’ freshman Alexis Limone of Phoenix said. “I cried.”
Several thousand strong, the crowd gathered on the Quad, where Griffin greeted them with prayer and quoted from Matthew 4:14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Griffin said the Ignite ceremony is a time for students to seal this commitment: “I want to be a light on a hill. I want to make a difference in the world. Let’s raise our light that symbolizes our commitment to change the world.”
With that, thousands of cell phones were raised into the sky.
Griffin said the traditional candle-lighting had been planned, but it was changed to cell phones only because of the high winds. After seeing the effect the cell phones had, however, he would like to make them a permanent feature.
Some students milled about on the grass afterward, enjoying the afterglow of the event.
“It was a new experience for me, and I really liked this,” freshman Mahlon Hauquitz from Colorado said.
“I enjoyed the worship,” said Royce Milgrim, a freshman from New Mexico. “I enjoyed the community building. I can feel it, and I need that.”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].