A Look into Student Spiritual Groups

Going to college is quite the transformative time for many students. Getting away from home and formulating a personal identity is critical to the college experience. One of the many ways that students do this is by collecting under a shared viewpoint and engaging with the broader campus community with those values in mind. Even at a small school like Lawrence, the diversity among the student body lends to the conception of a vast network of student religious groups, all of which play an important role in the broader spiritual life on campus.

The first among these groups is the Lawrence Christian Fellowship (LCF). LCF is a religious group on campus that offers community to students and faculty of Christian faiths. A large weekly meeting is held on Wednesday’s nights at Warch. Each meeting brings in new speakers to cover different themes throughout the year, the current theme being ‘building bridges.’ LCF also puts on multiple smaller meetings that are held at various times during the week. LCF is open to people of many different religious backgrounds. “The Fellowship is a very welcoming community. Anyone who is even curious about the group and the faith can come check it out. Any questions would be answered happily by the leaders,” said senior Kelsie Kohlmeyer. LCF also has information about Fox Valley churches and can offer rides to people interested in the services. Every Sunday, ‘Post Church Brunch’ is held by the group in Andrew Commons for anyone interested.

A newer spiritual group on campus is the Multifaith Council. The council is not considered a religious group, but more of a group open to all students, faculty and staff to engage in interfaith dialogue and to learn about perspectives of different religions. The council, which is brand-new to Lawrence, was spearheaded by Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Linda Morgan-Clement. The council held their first retreat on April 1, where non-members could see what an interfaith dialogue looks like.

Morgan-Clement said, “So many media outlets are talking about religion in both positive and negative contexts, but I hope LU students actually want to understand and not just take information in the way people tell them to. The Multifaith Council gives the chance for students to gain perspective of what is going on in various religious and non-religious traditions.” The council creates an interfaith event or activity for the whole campus each term. It will also try to hold two more dialogue events for students in Spring Term.

Lawrence University Unitarian Universalists (UU) is a group that is focused on the religion called Unitarian Universalism. UU has gone through many different carnations, with the current one being the third in Lawrence history.

Sophomore John Newhall said, “The religion is a big part of my life, so my conversation naturally tends to move towards it. Through conversation, I found more UU’s, and then I decided to try and form the group again.” The Unitarian Universalists are trying to build up membership and are open to anyone who is interested and wants to know more about the faith. Since Appleton has one of the biggest Unitarian Universalism congregations in the country, it’s no surprise that the Lawrence campus has a growing community of spiritual support for UU. Meetings are held weekly at Sabin House and open discussions are built around questions that talk about their experiences with the faith.

Hillel is a religious group that celebrates the Jewish faith and provides a community for Jewish students. Freshman and Vice President of Hillel Ora Raymond described the faith as “religious, but also cultural. People take away what they want from it.”

This week, Hillel held a fun version of the Seder Meal called ‘Chocolate Seder Meal.’ They replaced the traditional Seder Meal food with chocolate food and drink. Instead of drinking wine, people drank chocolate milk and ate bittersweet chocolate in place of the bitter herbs. The larger, official Seder will be held on April 14 in Warch Campus Center. People who would like to observe and learn about the Jewish faith are welcome to come to the meetings. “It’s really nice to be around people of similar cultures,” Raymond said, “especially in a place where there aren’t many Jews.” Hillel holds weekly meetings on Friday nights where they talk about each other’s weeks and have traditional prayer.

Lawrence University Pagan Society (LUPS) is an educational and safe space for Pagans on campus and meets at Sabin House every week. Junior Calyx Moore, the head of the society, describes Paganism as an umbrella term for multiple religions. Moore explained, “You can ask five different Pagans what Paganism is and you will get five different answers. Paganism is a unifying desire in religious and spiritual practice to help the Earth and practice magic.” LUPS hopes to widen the campus community’s horizons and correct those who think Paganism is black magic or are evil worshippers. “We are not different from everyone else, we just do different things,” commented Moore.

In the past, Pagan Society raised donations through tarot cards and palm readings and hopes to do a similar event this term. On April 11 from 8-10 p.m., LUPS will be hosting an open event called “S’mores Under the Moon” for anyone who is interested in learning about Paganism or just wants to stop by and enjoy s’mores by the fire. Over spring midterm reading period, LUPS is planning a trip out to a nature preserve for the first of six harvest festivals.

The student religious organizations at Lawrence center their focus on educating the campus about what they do and providing a safe space for those with any religion to talk about what spirituality mean to them. Building a strong and inclusive spiritual life on campus is a great way to bring such a diverse community together and expand respect of all viewpoints.