Every Wednesday night on Pearse Street, students make their way from college campuses across Dublin to a gathering called Chapel.
St Mark’s Church is transformed weekly into a haven for young adults who have a Christian faith. Each week at 7:30pm, students make their way through the double-doors into a warm colourful room which is buzzing with chatter and boppy music. Young people from all walks of life, backgrounds and worldviews are welcomed straight away.
“Chapel is a community of young adults who believe that real hope and purpose is found in Jesus. No matter where you are on your journey of faith, there is a place where you can
belong,” 27-year-old Phil, a leader in the Chapel group explained. The atmosphere is saturated with the sound of people catching up and meeting for the first time. The space is different than what you would typically expect for a church. It’s an open with airy feel and has a large stage lit up with blue and purple spotlights, which could resemble a concert venue if it weren’t for the cross lit up directly in the centre.
Music, which sounds a little like grime rap, is blaring at the back of the incredible amount of voices throughout the space, while everyone drinks their coffee at ease.
Laurie, a 23-year-old an electrical engineer who works in the city centre, gave the lowdown on the events for a normal night.
“You come into the hall and there’s usually a tea or coffee, and someone to say hi, then there’s some time to mingle before the countdown timer comes on the screen to signal that it’s time to grab a seat…it’s usually pretty packed.”
Each week the night consists of an initial half an hour of mixing with and meeting people. Following this, there is a worship set consisting of three to four songs depending on the night. Attendees are encouraged to participate in prayer and sing along with the songs whilst raising their hands. The usual routine begins with a speaker, usually a leader in Chapel, a speaker from another church or a member of the congregation themselves.
They bring the biblical message for that night. The message is based on a few verses and is explained over the course of 30 minutes.
Aisling, another leader in Chapel, works as a Irish Sign Language Interpreter based in Dublin.
“Everyone is welcome to Chapel, and everyone is valued no matter where we are in our faith journey.”
“Chapel allows people to hear about the love God has for them, and the incredible purpose he has created them for,” she says.
“I know it can be hard for us as a society to even consider having a faith, even myself growing up in the local Catholic church I didn’t really understand who God was, or what he could do for me in my everyday life. It wasn’t about being a good person or doing good deeds, it was about giving all my failure and faults over to God and allowing him to work in me.”
There is a sense of a revival in the place. It’s evident that there is a new chapter for Christianity in Ireland, with over 200 young people attending this service weekly. Julie is studying in Dun Laoghaire spoke about why she travels in every week in rush hour traffic after being in college all day.
“Chapel for is me is like a mid-week pick me up, where I stop focusing on my own problems, and focus on Jesus instead,” she says.
“I needed somewhere I could grow a deeper faith and be around people who wouldn’t judge me but helped me understand.”
I am informed multiple times that the core of this group is the team. Over 15 teams are playing different roles in this organisation. These teams bring this service to life each week, but also constantly organise events to entice other young adults to attend.
Currently, the Chapel group are doing a campaign called ‘More Love, Less Fear’. Karen Jeffrey- the leader of the campaign team outlines that it’s about “getting the message of Jesus out to our city”.
According to Ms. Jeffrey, the idea behind the campaign is based on the verse 1 John 4:18. During this campaign they have put out promotional videos, but also have started a sticker campaign throughout the city’s landmarks and universities which you can follow on Instagram.
“Having faith is so important to me because it helps remain full of joy and peace through the trials of life. Chapel is a reminder of that joy and peace for me, seeing people my own age facing similar struggles coming together in a safe space to worship and praise together is really encouraging to me,” said Shannon, a DCU student studying Law.
Crowds of young people walk towards the prayer team at the end of the night during the last song. The service closes promptly at 9:00pm, but the attendees seem happy to linger and discuss the nights events. Come 9:30pm, the spotlights on stage are switched off, the music phased out and the double-doors close to finish the night, the light of the cross is left on.
The chatter dies down and I watched as the students took Dublin Bus back to their respective colleges and home places. Some heading towards Maynooth on the train and some back to Greystones on the Dart, there is great diversity in the gathering. Young people travel home after the gathering of the Chapel group with a sense of community which they can’t get anywhere else in Ireland.
Image credit: Chapel Dublin