Have you ever attended a Buddhist-Christian funeral service? I hadn't either, yet I now count it as one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life. The recent service was held at the Eureka Christian Church and was presided over by a minister of the church and a Zen Buddhist priest. The minister and the priest, both female, coordinated the service by sharing the rich beauty of both faiths selflessly with the goal of honoring my friend and his family's wishes.
The service was for Dr. John Halpin. John was a former psychology professor at Eureka College, a devoted husband and father, and a wonderful exemplar of his Buddhist beliefs. John's wife, Rose is a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and arranged the service with the aide of the minister, Lucy Maier and Zen Buddhist senior teacher Myoyu Anderson.
As the service began, the blend of East and West was striking: Soul-stirring church music and Tibetan flute followed each other. Maier led a prayer. Anderson shared the Buddhist vows that John took. Maier shared Psalm 139 and from John 14, "I will take you unto myself, that where I am you may be also... Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."
Anderson shared the 10 perfections of Buddhist living, including the generous giving of oneself to others, proper conduct, renunciation, seeking wisdom, diligence, patience, truthfulness and honesty, resolution, loving-kindness, and equanimity/serenity.
Anderson invited all to join in the chanting of the Metta Sutta:
"May all be filled with joy and peace... Let no one deceive another. Let no one anywhere despise another. Let no one out of anger or resentment wish suffering to anyone at all... Let your love flow outward through the whole universe... Strive for this with one pointed mind: Your life will bring heaven to earth."
The graveside service included a traditional Buddhist blessing and all were welcomed back to the church for a delicious meal prepared by church members and preceded by a prayer blessing by Maier.
Halpin was truly honored in a befitting way. The two great faiths of Buddha and Jesus formed a loving partnership in the making of one beautiful service -- just the way John wanted it. His warm smile was almost palpable from the realm beyond.