Among the array of faiths and religious cultural groups on campus is Ignite: Pagans United, a new student organization that has recently come into the public spotlight.
Junior John Beegle said the organization has provided a refuge neither he nor many others have previously had.
“Speaking for me, and I would think many others in the group, Ignite has given me a place to speak with and befriend those of similar interests and philosophies,” he said.
The organization promotes itself as a place where anyone of pagan background can come to learn about the beliefs and practices of others in an environment that seeks to foster mutual respect and understanding.
Member sophomore Dallas Smith said the group promotes education and tolerance, as well as kindness.
“We want to be able to show everyone that we are also open and kind to others,” she said.
Senior Hannah Moulder said it is a wonderful and peaceful organization.
“It’s here for those who identify with the pagan faith,” she said. “It teaches positivity, love and that we are all one unit made to make the world a better place. I think this world needs more clubs and organizations like this one.”
The OrgSync section of MyUCA shows 15 campus religious organizations.
There are many Christian organizations on campus, but non- religious students have had little choice in finding a group where they can connect to other members of their beliefs.
The only other non-religious Recognized Student Organization (RSO) is the Secular Student Alliance, an irreligious organization of students devoted to critical thought and scientific discussion.
Smith said she was excited when she first saw the flyers for the club.
“I knew the campus hadn’t had a specific club for pagans,” she said. “The important thing to think about is that pagans aren’t very popular in Arkansas and are often pushed into hiding for holding different belief systems. The club was created in order to give us a sense of unity and a common place to worship, much like the Christian organizations on campus. It serves as a reminder that we aren’t alone.”
Pagans United members say they want to connect with more people like themselves: pagan, polytheist or those looking for an interesting group to talk to.
A segment from their constitution defines the group’s purpose as “[seeking]to foster pride in Pagan identity through education, activism, charity and community by promoting Pagan unity and spirit throughout campus and Conway.”
At its last meeting, the organization discussed Greek Hellenistic beliefs then had a group meditation ceremony.
The openness of the group created a friendly and inviting environment.
They also discussed the forms of discrimination people are subject to in various aspects of their life.
Group members said people who practice pagan beliefs are frequently subject to criticism from others that have an incomplete knowledge of their beliefs and practices.
Members found flyers posted in Irby Hall advertising their organization torn down from the wall and on the floor.
The group says it is this sort of discrimination they seek to eliminate and promote unity and peace among the various faiths at UCA.
The group plans to hold an informational event composed of multiple events in a day with the Feminist Union, PRISM (Pride, Raising awareness, Involvement, Support and Mentoring) Alliance and other organizations.
The group said they hope to provide knowledge that fosters understanding in the student community.
Graduate student and Pagans United President Sheldon Slinkard described his vision of a final goal.
“Our end goal is to have a physical building on campus, or near campus, that mimics the Wesley foundation and other religious entities around the area to offer a place of safe worship and spiritual growth,” he said.
Junior Ernest Goldwood spoke about the things the group has taught him.
“This group has, more than anything else, has taught me the importantance of being honest with myself and standing up for what I believe in no matter what others may think,” he said.
Ignite: Pagans United meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in Harrin Hall 227.
Those seeking to become a member or check out the meeting can join the organization’s Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/ignitepagan.
The group posts weekly about upcoming events and meetings on its Facebook page.