The Pluralism Project: Mapping the Religious Diversity of Arkansas

A collection of photographs mapping the religious diversity of Arkansas



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The front of Chua Pho Minh Buddhist Temple stands out in a residential neighborhood of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The grounds adjacent to Chua Pho Minh Temple are not only used for parking, but they are often the site of many religious and cultural festivals.

The main hall of Chua Pho Minh Temple is occasionally used for joint services with Wat Buddhasamakeedham, a Thai-Lao Buddhist Temple only a mile away.

The Vietnamese and American flags adjacent to the main altar of Chua Pho Minh serve as a reminder of both the ethnic origin of the temple and its present geographical location.

Flowers and offerings stand before the Buddha in the Chua Pho Minh Temple.

A statue of Guan Ying stands out above the carefully groomed gardens of Chua Pho Minh.

Although temporarily closed, the Devachan Temple of Eureka Springs, Arkansas serves as a Buddhist Temple and meditation center for one of the most beautiful areas of the Ozarks.

The conservative Church of Christ is a major part of the Arkansas religious landscape.

With over 12,000 members, its own high school, and a large family center, the mega church of First Baptist of Springdale, Arkansas stands in contrast to many of the small religious centers around the state.

With the Arabic inscription, "Al-Markaz Islaame," a sign marks the Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas in Fayetteville Arkansas.

After Friday prayers, Muslims socialize outside the Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas. Above, the Arabic words "Bismillah al-rahman a-rahim", (i.e. "In the Name of God the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful") invite Muslims to enter the place of prayer. This is the former building used by the Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas. Today, the Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas has built a new center for its use.

Two students from the University of Arkansas leave the Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas after maghrib prayers.

The interior of the Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas exhibits a podium and microphone used by the prayer leader and small library of Islamic resources.

After Friday prayers a group of Palestinian students eat at a Mexican restaurant owned by another Palestinian in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Hillel House of the University of Arkansas serves as a center for not only students, but the greater Jewish community of Northwest Arkansas.

The United Campus Ministry on the edge of the campus of the University of Arkansas provides a space for a wide variety of religious groups.

Within the walls of the United Campus Ministry are weekly sessions sponsored by a Zen meditation group, a Vajrayana Meditaion Group, a Society of Friends (Quakers), and Radhasoami, i.e. the BEAS Society (Science of the Soul).

In addition to offering prayer services, the Islamic Center of Fort Smith sponsors an after-school Islamic madrasa during the week for children of all ages.

One of the key leaders of the Islamic Center of Fort Smith talks with a member before a service.

The front sign of Wat Buddhasamakeedham of Fort Smith Arkansas greets visitors from the residential neighborhood surrounding it.

The gates of Wat Buddhasamakeedham mark off the 6-acre complex, including the main temple, the residential center for the monks, and a garden.

A small building serves as a place of isolation and meditation for monks at Wat Buddhasamakeedham.

A large golden Buddha stands in the main temple of Wat Buddhasamakeedham.

After chanting, the monks of Wat Buddhasamakeedham eat their one meal of the day.

With photographs of their leaders above them, the monks of Wat Buddhasamakeedham share a common leadership and life.

The lay members of the Fort Smith community serve more than a dozen monks their meal each day.

At the east end of the smaller temple, a Golden Buddha marks off the altar space of Wat Buddhasamakeedham.

Paintings done by one of the monks of Wat Buddhasamakeedham adorn all the walls of the main temple area.

Thorne Crown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas incorporates a beautiful natural setting into the chapel.  Their services are exclusively Christian.

Thorne Crown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas incorporates a beautiful natural setting into the chapel.  Their services are exclusively Christian.

Thorne Crown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas incorporates a beautiful natural setting into the chapel.  Their services are exclusively Christian.

Thorne Crown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas incorporates a beautiful natural setting into the chapel.  Their services are exclusively Christian.

The Sister Clara Mohammad School provides an education based on Islamic principles for many children of Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Islamic Center for Human Excellence is one of two main mosques serving the Little Rock area.

The spacious interior of the Islamic Center of Little Rock is home to the largest Islamic congregation in the capital of Arkansas.

Bookshelves and windows adorn the main prayer area of the Islamic Center of Little Rock.

An African American Muslim prays at the Islamic Center of Little Rock. The Islamic Center of Little Rock is a diverse congregation, composed of both first and second-generation immigrants and African Americans.

Open for both daily prayers during the week (as is pictured here,) Friday j'ummah services, and a variety of weekend activities, the Islamic Center of Little Rock is an active community.

Completed within the last decade, the Islamic Center of Little Rock has an accompanying school, behind the main structure pictured here.

Congregation Agudath Achim is one of several Jewish synagogues in the Little Rock area.

The Jewish Reform Congregation B'nai Israel was founded in Little Rock in 1866 and has continued as a vibrant community to the present day.

Surrounded by wooded areas and well- groomed grounds, B'nai Israel provides a peaceful setting for its congregants.

Although there is not a Hindu Temple in Arkansas, there is a small but active Hindu presence in the state. Personal altars in homes (such as the one pictured here) provide an important place for religious expression and devotion.

Since 1992 the Ecumenical Buddhist Society of Little Rock has rented a space in the Gans Place Carriage House.

The main office of the Ecumenical Buddhist Society of Little Rock also houses a small gift shop with Buddhist literature, art, and devotional material.

A gate in the style of the Shinto torri leads to the main shrine at the Heartsong Sufi retreat center.

The octagonal Heartsong Shrine serves as the focal point of the Heartsong Sufi Retreat Center.

The Heartsong Retreat Center is a non profit spiritual retreat center based on the Sufi teachings of Inayat Khan, Samuel Lewis, Jelaluddin Rumi, Murshida Vera Corda and various spiritual masters. Classes are held weekly along with workshops, seasonal celebrations, individual and group led retreats.

Since 1981, the Heartsong Retreat Center has offered the people of Northwest Arkansas, and those willing to make the pilgrimage there, the chance to meditate, pray, and conduct services in the middle of the Ozarks. The inside of the Heartsong Shrine, pictured here, is the key venue for much of this prayer and meditation.

The afternoon light of a day in late August shines through the dome of the Heartsong Shrine.

Islamic calligraphy ornaments the dining hall of the Heartsong Retreat Center. In addition to the dining hall, there is a central shrine for worship and meditation (pictured earlier), a dining hall, a pond for swimming, and camping and cabin space.

The private home of Khabir Kitz on the Heartsong property.

A small statue ornaments the grounds of the Heartsong Retreat Center.


Most images © The Pluralism Project

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