Mecklenburg Interfaith Network (MeckMin), headquartered on our campus, is one of our “Campus Partners.” Park Road provides the space, and as a benefit to us, our ministry is expanded through the good efforts of these organizations, which have mission statements distinctively different from our church’s, but which are intrinsically connected to our vision of Christianity and the world.
A colleague and friend at MeckMin sent me this text during our recent Wednesday night supper program:
“Suggestion: after Wed. dinner is over, stick your head in the chapel for just a couple minutes… I walked around the Park Road campus tonight and looked/listened in on various activities – this place here, PRBC, is a good, good place (insert smiley-face emoticon).”
Another of our Campus Partners is the Insight Meditation Community, which meets in our chapel every Wednesday night. This week they hosted a special program, so I took my friend’s good advice and took a stroll around my church.
I, too, was amazed.
So, not every Baptist minister would approve of seven Tibetan Monks, robed and wrapped in saffron, sitting “criss-cross-apple-sauce” where the pulpit is supposed to be, chanting in Sanskrit. Nor would many Baptist ministers thrill at opening the doors for a packed house of believers(?), sitting in the pews, many with palms upturned, chanting along with the monks.
But last week in Paris, madmen wrapped in a delusion they call “God,” wasted their own lives and the lives of hundreds more who were actually their brothers and sisters. It’s a tragedy murderers cannot see the resemblance. But the destructive rants of some religious leaders speak only of division and difference, of hatred in the name of God, of justice only through retribution, of apocalyptic violence, of visions of paradise – in some other place, some other time – that can be achieved only through pain.
In a world of such maddening events, I am proud, honored and humbled that seven Buddhists from the other side of the world, and at least 150 neighbors, from across my own community, were comfortable to come to a Baptist church, sit for an hour, search the silence of their own souls and the strains of ancient, chanting rhythms, in search of peace.
Elsewhere on our campus that night, one group sat quietly, reflecting on scripture in light of the joys and struggles of their life. Another group practiced a traditional Bible study. A third group studied an understanding of Jesus’ death that rejects “redemptive violence,” an alternative view that could in no way justify violence in the name of God.
Meanwhile, young children gathered to appreciate their own gifts, and to understand their place in the world, through stories of the Bible, activity and song. Our Park Road Youth Group studied and laughed together. In yet another room, a choir sang a Latin text in the praise of a God who comes to us wrapped in the vulnerability of weakness, not vests packed with explosives.
Maybe this is the kind of Baptist church today’s, frightening, divided world needs. Because I believe in Jesus, the monks are welcome, any time at Park Road Baptist Church.
And our doors will always be open to all who long for peace.