Reverend Bernard Keels Encourages Students to Visit Chapel

By: Weyden Wedderburn

Morgan State’s own Reverend Bernard Keels is making an attempt to make the chapel an important part of campus life. He believes that having various activities or events in the chapel will help guide people to a better and more successful life. His goal is to make the chapel one of the staple places on Morgan’s campus.

 

Weyden Wedderburn: Why do you think the chapel is a good way to do activities?

Reverend Bernard Keels: You know, the history of HBCU’s is a very fascinating one because most were founded on the origin of spirituality and academic success. So one of the things that could happen is that with all of the resurgence of modernization of buildings and that stuff, we got to work on people as well. We got to get people a sense of foundation and purpose in their lives and what better way to do that through an inner-faith, non-denominational approach where people can begin to answer the basic questions, “Who am I?” “What does God have for me in my life?” and “What do I do with these gifts I have?” So I think that our sense of spiritual formation is important as our academic enrichments and our particular majors.

 

WW: Do you think people from all faiths should do activities or events in the chapel even though it’s more of a Christian environment?

BK: Yes I do. When Morgan took apart of the deed in 2008, it necessarily had to speak to all faith communities on the campus. So what we began to do is to put together a program in ministry that speaks to Muslims students, Christian students, Jewish students, if there are some, and yes, we are still a predominately Christian worship service on Sunday’s, but we also have a very large content of Muslims who participate in a prayer on Friday’s at 1 p.m. I would say 50-60 faculty and students come for that one Muslim experience. So as a State Institution, we were needed to provide a venue for all faith communities.

 

WW: Why don’t people do a lot of events in the chapel?

BK: Actually, they do. You’d be surprised of the number of Greek Organizations who have their founder’s week services here. International education week, which will come in November, the annual alumni candlelight memorial service where they identify and honor deceased alumni happens every year. One of the things I think should happen is to spread the word of the kind of programs we have. Alpha Nu Omega has events here; Bethlehem Campus Fellowship has events here, as well, so it’s been quite busy here. We’re really just trying to give deeper exposure and any group that is willing to hold events here, all they need to do is contact me and if my schedule holds, we’ll make it happen.

 

WW: What are the positive that you can give people in order to do more activities in the chapel?

BK: I would ask them to look around their campus and to realize that Morgan State University started at 1867 as a biblical institution. I would encourage people to realize that more and more society is telling them to put faith in the back burner and I think some of the issues we are encountering are directly related to the fact that we don’t put our faith in a perspective to guide our actions and our thoughts.

 

WW: What message do you want people to bring when doing various activities?

BK: I want to bring a message that we are concerned about the empowerment and uplifting of others. We live in a diverse world in which we don’t have to believe in what others believe, but we be fighting for what we believe. Another message I would bring is that I think studies show that students, faculty, staff and administration that have a faith perspective are far more devoted to their task. I think that we are trying to gain the excellence of Morgan as a world-research institution. We are looking into every faith to give back and contribute the betterment of the community and look back at their 40th anniversary at Morgan and say, “I learned not just for my academics, but how my faith can inform my profession.” I think that is a very powerful task to fulfill.

 

WW: Why do you think it’s important to do activities and learn the word of God?

BK: I think faith and works go together. I think faith without works is dead. I think the idea of it being partnered together is very important. Some of the great thinkers of the 20th century such as Malcolm X and Dr. King, their faith propelled their works. They were able to speak to ones that were speechless. So they were able to exercise their faith as good as they possibly can.

 

WW: How often are activities being shown throughout the school year?

BK: Every night, something is going on in the chapel whether its Voices of Praise choir rehearsal, Dances of Praises rehearsal, bible study, the National Council of Negro Women having meetings or community groups have meetings here. More and more people are coming to the chapel as a place where they can get a sense of being connected to each other. Many people know that the chapel is an active player and participant in a lot of the programs we have in the community. It is important to give people a better understanding on how active the chapel is and how it can help people to achieve excellence.

 

WW: Do you think it will help build people up with their faith?

BK: Yes, because too many times we are isolated and believe that it is me against the world. Relationships are a good example. I watch a lot of relationships and it becomes toxic because they built on things that neither person involves in a relationship would understand such as unwanted pregnancies and intimacy. If people would understand that commitment to self is so important and a sense of purpose to know why you’re here and understand that God didn’t make anyone by mistake; there is a plan for each of us. Part of our walk in life is to find that plan, step into it and grow to the kind of effective, focused people that will make a difference in the world.

 

WW: Why should the chapel be so important for students and Morgan’s campus?

BK: Stability. Can we practice stability in a world if you live in stability? More and more people are saying I’m black your white and the fact of the matter is that you are a human being and I’m a human being. I think that all of this has something to do to make our community a strong and vibrate place and for other communities to not stereotype us. I also think that parenting plays a big part in our society where they should help their children to get a college degree and make a difference in the world.

 

WW: What does the Morgan State Chapel mean to you and to others that attends services and activities?

BK: I think for me the Chapel means a way in which I can lend and receive leadership to help both the temple and spiritual needs of faculty, students and the community and that is a place that has a rich reservoir of history where faith works. I like to see people who understand that there is a soul and the ability to ask the question at every stage of every development “Have I done the most I can, for all I can, for as all I can?” Then I think you can finish one’s time upon this earth at least content that you did the wool of God that create you and did not step on someone’s life. So for me, I don’t give up on people to assume. I keep at it to show that light overcomes darkness in every situation particularly when that person receives it as a way of growing out of their nest and into their destiny.

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