Wait Chapel expands programming, strengthens community

“To look out across Wait Chapel on a Sunday morning and see multiple races and ethnicities and choral students and football players all in the same sanctuary together made me think we were getting something right,” Walton said of the Family Weekend service at which he preached .

Christopher Gilliam

Christopher Gilliam

Sacred music is an instrumental part of the chapel. Before joining Wake Forest in 2020, Christopher Gilliam, director of choral activities and an assistant professor in the Department of Music, directed the Winston-Salem Symphony and Symphony Chorus in a 2019 performance of the Mozart Requiem in Wait Chapel. He likes the musical metamorphosis the chapel is undergoing.

“Dean Walton made it possible for me to collaborate with Chaplain Tim Auman for Lovefeast 2020, and he later hired the North Carolina Baroque Orchestra to prepare for the Easter service,” Gilliam said. “He’s stayed true to his word that he really wants to reignite the chapel, and he’s looking for worship service opportunities to involve the choirs.”

The Winston-Salem State University Singing Rams will perform at Lovefeast on Dec. 5 along with the Wake Forest Gospel Choir, directed by Joshuah Brian Campbell, a Grammy- and Oscar-nominated composer. The public is invited to enjoy Lovefeast via livestream here.

Wake Forest’s Concert and Chamber choirs will also perform at Lovefeast. Crainshaw said she’s excited over the collaboration between Campbell, Gilliam and Maestra D’Walla Simmons-Burke, director of Choral and Vocal Studies in the Department of Music at WSSU. WFU’s Gospel Choir and WSSU’s Singing Rams will perform four selections together during Lovefeast.

Grammy, Oscar-nominated professional directing the Gospel Choir

Campbell served as an artist-in-residence at Wake Forest during Spring 2021, working for several weeks with students and alumni of both the Gospel Choir and the Divinity School for the annual Easter service. He returned to work with Gilliam for the undergraduate commencement at Truist Field in May. Since joining the Wake Forest staff in August, Campbell has worked with Crainshaw and the worship planning team to develop weekly worship services at the School of Divinity in Davis Chapel, and has led the Gospel Choir with music inspired by the African American sacred tradition.

Joshua Brian Campbell

Joshua Brian Campbell

“Finding our voice in the context of Wait Chapel has been and will be an interesting and inspiring challenge. We want to enliven the space with our honesty, which in turn will allow those who gather there to be met right where they are, no matter the tradition or vantage point from which they approach the space.”

Campbell added that he, Crainshaw and others “are excited about pushing the boundaries of what these spaces of worship and gathering can be” as they also engage the spaces pedagogically.

Gilliam said the hiring of Campbell demonstrated Walton’s commitment to “making sure Wait Chapel is active in the music of various genres.” He added that the Chamber Choir rehearses in Wait Chapel because Walton “wants people to hear music when they’re walking by and to know that Wait Chapel is very much alive.”

Intentionality and collaboration are key, Gilliam said, to getting more people engaged with Wait Chapel, where strong collaborations have developed with several organizations, including the Office of the Chaplain, Wake the Arts and the North Carolina Black Repertory Company.

“I think what we do in Wait Chapel can enliven the work of many people on our campus who get excited about this collaborative effort … sacred music and intellectual events that occur in this space and further advance the University’s mission and purpose,” Crainshaw said.

For example, on Nov. 4 as part of the Mac Bryan Prophetic Preaching Series, hundreds of people came to the chapel to hear Cornel West, a renowned philosopher, author, activist and academic. And in February, March and April 2022, the NC Black Repertory Company will stage readings of three new plays for the community inside Wait Chapel. A service will be held in Wait Chapel on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022, and a variety of other events are being planned.

Added Walton: “We’re in an era where people are becoming more individualized in their spirituality. That’s fine, but we all need community.”