WWU takes worship outdoors

The creation of a “future-proof” outdoor stage

Walla Walla University (WWU) strives to create a strong community for its students, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made this ambition difficult. To help alleviate this situation, Albert Handel, lead campus chaplain, came up with a future-proof idea.

Before the 2021–2022 school year, there was no clarity as to what pandemic regulations would be implemented that might prohibit in person events on campus. This was discouraging considering that the regulations in place the previous year made it hard to get a real sense of community on campus. Because of this, Handel proposed his idea to create an outdoor stage. Soon people from across campus pulled together to make Handel’s vision a reality by creating a stage on Centennial Green that could accommodate 1,500 people. 

Construction soon began on this outdoor cathedral. A sound system, lights, chairs, and an elevated stage were all assembled underneath the large trees who were just beginning to turn red and gold as fall quarter started. John McVay, WWU president, said, “ It was impressive in its youthful vibe. It just felt fun.”

This outdoor stage was used for all major programming for the first three weeks of school. Events such as vespers, Mosaic church, CommUnity, and week of worship all met in this impressive space. Handel said it was a miracle that the students and staff didn’t get rained out, smoked out, or snowed out once in those three weeks. 

Handel explained, “It wouldn’t have happened with the incredible collaboration with other departments across campus. I just called together a meeting with a handful of individuals from across campus and the campus community delivered.” 

Although the stage is now packed away and events are held indoors due to the increasingly cold weather, students will not soon forget gathering around the stage and once again being a part of the WWU community. 

Posted on November 9, 2021