In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Valpo’s Chapel has found a new solution to allowing the community to participate in services remotely. Student-run radio station WVUR will now be offering live broadcasts of those services. This way worship can remain widely available despite restrictions.
According to Pastor Jim Wetzstein, he and Deaconess Kristin Lewis began discussing how to connect with people despite pandemic shutdowns.
“So the decision came out of a conversation with Professor Rick Wolff, from the communications department. Really early in, as last semester in the spring [when things] were shutting down because of the pandemic, one of the conversations that Deaconess Kristin and I had was we need to connect with people who know communications and communications technology, to figure out what are the ways we can do stuff differently,” Wetzstein said.
In those conversations, Wolff suggested broadcasting over WVUR. Once everyone returned to campus, including leads of the Chapel sound team and WVUR, equipment normally used to broadcast basketball games was brought over to the Chapel and hooked up to their sound system.
“Dr. Wolff was saying he was on the board at WVUR the first Sunday that we broadcast the Chapel service on Sunday morning,” Wetzstein said. “And he said when he started to hear the organ playing over WVUR he got chills because for him as a radio person that was really, really exciting.”
Blake Harms, Senior Meteorology Major and General Manager with WVUR, explains the broadcasting process further.
“We used what's called a tieline board from the athletics department that they use for sports broadcasts and brought that to the Chapel,” Harms said. “So we go through their audio board, and then that simulcasts directly onto our station...then all we have to do is have somebody go activate the equipment in the Chapel and then come back to the station and switch our audio board on off of the regularly scheduled programming and then turn on the Chapel feed. And that's pretty much all there is to actually the process of broadcasting and then that's also streamed online as well.”
Though the Chapel is also streaming over Youtube, Wetzstein says there is still a major advantage to using radio, whether you’re listening online or over the air.
“One of the things that we think is really helpful about going to radio is...we're also live streaming now to a YouTube channel, but the radio is portable. And you don't need to be looking at a screen in order to enjoy radio,” Wetzstein said. “So there's some power there that is inherent in that media that I think is really, really valuable for the Chapel’s ministry and for the listening audience.”
According to Harms, broadcasting Chapel services was also a great way for WVUR to build a listener base in the community in a time when in-person events are very limited.
“It's just so cool to be connected to another organization on campus that does so much for the university,” Harms said. “And we've gotten great feedback from it, and I think community members are really enjoying having that option to join worship services remotely in that way.”
According to Wetzstein, the broadcasts are a good opportunity both for people who cannot make it to the Chapel to participate in person and for people who might have not come for other reasons.
“It makes what's happening in the Chapel way more accessible, and allows people who wouldn't have had the opportunity to come and may not have come because they don't completely understand what's going on, or they don't think they need it, or they don't think they're interested in it,” Wetzstein said. “It provides a really low risk way of finding out what's going on because you can do it by yourself in the privacy of your own space.”
To listen to the broadcasts, tune in to 95.1 or listen to WVUR’s online broadcast on Tune In. Both Sunday services taking place at 10 a.m. and Morning Prayer, taking place at 9:50 a.m. on Mon. and Fri., are broadcast. Streams can also be found on Youtube under the channel Valpo Chapel.
“I'm a firm believer, I know Deaconess Kristin is too, of like getting it out to anybody who wants to listen any way we can do it,” Wetzstein said. “And so that's why I'm just really delighted that WVUR is willing to partner with us.”