A man, who is not a member of the UR community, demonstrated on the forum this morning about the difference between having faith in Jesus and adhering to the rules and customs of the church.
The demonstrator is a part of the movement called, “If Anyone Is Thirsty,” a movement started by Michael Woroniecki, according to pamphlets handed out to students. The movement targets college students, encouraging them to hear the message of the gospel of the "living Jesus."
“Everything we write is based on God’s Word, without any kind of 'catch' to go to a 'church,' group or religion. Rather to give you understanding that can change your life,” according to the movement's website.
Students stopped in the university forum to listen to his sermon-like speech while walking to classes.
“I just stopped and saw this small man with this huge sign attached to his hip,” Katherine Queally, freshman, said. “He was just talking about how to open your hearts for Jesus and he was kind of singling out kids as they were walking.”
Queally said that as she had walked into the dining hall, she had seen security officers going to ask the demonstrator to leave, but had not seen anything after that.
Courtney Trowbridge’s, senior, first reaction when she saw the demonstrator was, “what’s going on?” as she walked through the Forum with her friend, Sophie Kieftenbeld, senior.
“He was saying how this is a lonely, sad, depressing world,” Trowbridge said. “He also said we live in a fairy-land and we need Jesus to help us get through the world.”
Kieftenbeld said that the demonstrator had told students to visit New York City in order to experience homelessness and other perspectives of life.
Both Trowbridge and Kieftenbeld said two police officers and one other man escorted the demonstrator away.
When asked if it was difficult to tell whether the demonstrator was a UR student, Trowbridge said that it was obvious that he was not.
“Our school isn’t the type of environment to express your beliefs that strongly on campus to other individuals,” Trowbridge said.
“He seemed to be targeting the culture of students that we have here on campus and how we live in this privileged society that is removed from all of these supposed problems, that according to him, we have never experienced,” Kieftenbeld said. “I don’t think that’s valid.”
Two URPD officers and representatives from the chaplaincy spoke with the demonstrator and explained the demonstration could not take place on a private university campus because it to be trespassing.
“When I came out and saw the gentleman, it was clear to me that he had been doing some sort of religious activity,” Craig Kocher, the University Chaplain said. “The University of Richmond has certain protocols about how we do religious activities here. They come through the chaplaincy or other campus ministries.”
When asked what he was doing at UR, the demonstrator said: "I'm actually leaving, but I was here to talk to the kids. God loves you guys and he's got the answers because there's so much tragedy and insanity in this world."
He told The Collegian he traveled full-time and wanted to reach out to as many young people as he could, "before it's too late, before something tragic happens."
The interview was interrupted by representatives of the university escorting him to leave.
Because the demonstrator came from an off-campus group not affiliated with the university, this broke the protocol that the chaplaincy has in place for religious activities on campus and he was asked to leave, Kocher said.
Kocher also said that most public universities do not tend to have chaplaincies, so demonstrations like this are often more likely to happen at public institutions.
The chaplaincy’s purpose on UR’s campus is to plan religious activities and not to force religious ideas on students, Kocher said.
“One of the things that we commit to do [as the chaplaincy] is to be respectful of a person’s space,” Kocher said. “We don’t push religious messages onto people, but instead create environments for those people who are interested in learning about religious activities. This is not in the context of a very public venue where you wouldn’t necessarily want to have that conversation.”
Kocher emphasized that religious conversations are important and necessary, but in the right context where thoughts and beliefs are not being forced upon others, as they were today.
Contact Collegian writer Sydney Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org.