An act of Providence: Catholics share chapel with Baptists

See how these Christians in Rhode Island love one another:

Twenty years ago, a Catholic diocese would have never made room for the First Baptist Church congregation in a place where Catholics came to worship, says the Rev. Dorian Parker.

But one generous gesture on behalf of the Diocese of Providence has allowed the 30-or-so members of the Baptist Church to celebrate their faith inside a Catholic chapel in nearby North Smithfield.

The First Baptist Church, at Blackstone Street, Woonsocket, has not had the best of luck this year.

Badly in need of roof repairs, the church paid to patch it in February of this year. When that was complete, Parker was told the water damage from the leaks in the roof had seeped into the walls of the church, which he saw as a potential health problem for the elderly members of the congregation. Whatever work needs to be done will involve tearing the walls up, he said.

“My congregation is a little on the mature side,” Parker, the congregation’s pastor of six years, said. “I was concerned that people would develop health problems. I wanted to be safe.”

So he did what any pastor might do: he reached out for a helping hand. The hand that grabbed his, however, was an unexpected one.

Close enough for at least some of his church patrons to travel, the Catholic Diocese of Providence – particularly former Bishop Louis Gelineau – offered a spot at The Villa at St. Antoine in North Smithfield, an assisted living community with a small chapel seating more than 40. The baptist church “moved in” in March, not knowing how long it would have to stay.

“Most churches aren’t able to host some other congregation without paying into the pot,” Parker said. “But we even offered to give them what we had for compensation, and they wouldn’t take it.”

Parker was overwhelmingly grateful for the space, which he said he will hold until the congregation raises enough money to fix the water damage at the historical Blackstone Street church. He has high hopes for a grant by next spring, he says. Parker said he has also spoken to Alan Shawn Feinstein, a nationally known philanthropist in Rhode Island, about the congregation’s woes.

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53 responses to “An act of Providence: Catholics share chapel with Baptists”

  1. For the past several years, our parish has been blessed to celebrate midnight mass on Christmas in the very spacious sanctuary of nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King’s home congregation. We also hold a joint Ash Wednesday service with Ebenezer and several other local churches (mostly Baptist). This results not only in good will among Christians from different traditions, but it allows us to share some of the richness of those traditions with one another. The Baptists, in particular, seem to have taken on a new interest in the liturgical calendar.

    All the churches in our immediate area are predominately African American–as, I gather from the photo, this Baptist congregation in Rhode Island may be. I suspect black Christians may be more open than others to this kind of sharing.

  2. This was done in San Francisco 30 years ago. African American Baptists shared an African American Catholic parish church.. When it happens in Scarsdale it may be written up again. (-:

  3. I beg to differ. This is false ecumenism and proximate material cooperation in materially heretical worship. The Baptists are only confirmed in their error. And Catholics become indifferent to the truth handed on.
    This is a symptom of American privatized religiosity where “different strokes for different folks” rules because no one wants to seem mean and actually hold that there is one religious truth obligatory for all. God doesn’t care after all and unless your Adolf Hitler everyone’s going to heaven, or nirvana, or the Elysian fields.

  4. This is entirely appropriate neighborliness. It’s a chapel, not a church, so there’s not the same concerns about the Tabernacle (if they even have one). It’s not in a parish, but in a nursing home, where the chapel is probably already multi-use; so it shouldn’t cause scandal or distress to anyone. A group of hardcore African-American Baptists is probably extremely clear on the theological differences, so there’s no inadvertent deception of their members or of Catholics. Finally, it’s specifically done in a state of emergency, so nobody is under any illusions that this is normal.

    The Church allows her bishops a lot of leeway to be generous and hospitable. We might be sad that they don’t always choose to be; but we can be glad when they do.

  5. George…

    You’re uncharitable. You’re self-righteous. And you’re wrong.

    A recent Vatican document on ecumenism notes:

    “Christians may be encouraged to share in spiritual activities and resources, i.e., to share that spiritual heritage they have in common in a manner and to a degree appropriate to their present divided state.”

    Providing the Baptists a place to worship merely offers them something all Christians should offer to all our brothers and sisters: a welcoming home. It also offers a shelter wherein they can worship the same God and — whether they understand it or not — actually dwell in His Real Presence.

    And there is this: you never can tell how God will work, or how hearts will be converted. Who knows how hearts might be touched in that chapel?

    Dcn. G.

  6. And for a Mason, George, this IS correct what you have written. 🙂
    It is VERY charitable to speak the TRUTH about our Catholic Faith, the Traditional one not the new Modernism.

  7. A relevant portion of that document:

    Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries.

    Dcn. G.

  8. For a time we were members of a Catholic parish in South Carolina which had lost its church in a fire in 1970. In the middle of the night of the fire, as the fire department was still fighting to put it out, the pastor of the Baptist church across the street came over to promise to the knot of parishioners and staff “whatever you need we will help.” In the three years before a new church was built, the parish had Christmas Midnight Mass and Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil services in the large Baptist sanctuary.

  9. As a former resident of RI, living right outside the city of Providence for 18 years, I’m happy to hear of this and am proud of both groups. Sharing and love —-an example of Christianity at it’s best. Hooray!

    Geoge, poor attitude and not a great example of Chrisitanity.

  10. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Deacon Kandra and everyone who posts on this site. One of the many things I am Thankful for is the opportunity to express my opinion on this site, even though I’m not a follower of this particular faith. My respect for it it great and I enjoy the interaction.

  11. While you are welcome to your opinions – they differ materially with both the Bishop of Providence and the document issued and approved by the Blessed JPII as is posted.

    When I see responses such as yours I am left to wonder if Jesus wasn’t clear enough in Luke 10 when he asked which of these was a neighbor to the other, and then when told it was the one who assisted the man who was in need he directed us to go and do likewise. None of us is perfect but isn’t that we are called to do as followers of Christ – not to search for an excuse not to charitable but to instinctively offer to help?

  12. Dcn. Kandra, it is your website so feel free to to curse me out if it makes you feel good. But I expect a little more from a deacon.

    I am uncharitable for my opinion and concern about cooperation with objectively false worship in a Catholic chapel? Is not Catholicism the one true religion? Is giving the pulpit to a man who claims to be a minister when we don’t even give it to Catholic laypeople appropriate?

    But, instead of just looking down on my from your high horse and linking to some document (which doesn’t support your argument with its vague “may be encouraged” to share undefined “spiritual activities and resources”, and the conveniently forgotten “to a degree appropriate to their present divided state”.) Next time you might want to act like a deacon and try to teach without the judgmentalism and berating.

    Maybe -big maybe-some Baptists will somehow become Catholics as you piously hope. But, maybe some Catholics will be confused and even be led to false worship. (It is still a sin, you know.) And human nature is still prone toward sin, unless you’ve forgotten.
    You’re nothing like St. Paul who advocated that Catholics do not scandalize each other.

  13. Yeah, why should I be concerned with truth!
    It fits the pagan agenda to reduce all religions to the same thing, right?
    All that matters is that we don’t offend anyone by saying something is inappropriate.

  14. George…

    As I noted above (but I guess you missed):

    Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries.

    Dcn. G.

  15. Actually, George, St. Paul advocated that CHRISTIANS not scandalize each other. There were only Christians in St. Paul’s day.

    And I don’t see where you consider Deacon Greg to be judgmental. If the only space for worship they can obtain is a Catholic church or chapel, and all appropriate preparations are made (including removal of the Blessed Sacrament if necessary), should they not be allowed to worship God? Would you rather they worship God in an “erroneous” form, or not at all?

    Remember what else the Second Vatican Council taught? How about these words from Unitatis Redintegratio?
    “For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church-whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church-do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.
    “Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.”

    If they practiced some kind of pagan rituals, I could understand your concern. But last I checked, the Baptists are known for their preaching, scriptural focus and congregational singing – all things that can lead us closer to Christ, even if they do so imperfectly.

    (If anyone interprets the next statement as improper or uncharitable, please forgive me in advance.) George, if you are so concerned about Baptist using a Catholic chapel for their worship, dare I say that you have tremendous insecurity in your faith. I’m comfortable in my faith; I know what I believe in, and no Baptist (or other) minister can convince me otherwise. Another example: I have gay friends, some of whom are in relationships and/or looking to get “married.” Am I to stop being their friend because they want to do something I don’t believe in and regard as sinful? They know my feelings and I know theirs. They won’t convince me to change my feelings, but my feelings won’t stop my friendship toward them.

    Bottom line: are people that stupid and their faith so uninsecure that a Baptist congregation using a Catholic chapel for worship is s source of scandal? And what’s more of a scandal: abusing a child or allowing non-Catholics to worship in a Catholic church? Inquiring minds want to know.

  16. Am I confused, I thought Protestanism was a Heresy? Why would be celebrate this “union” of sorts? It means (to me) that we are praising them for leaving the Church to begin with….

  17. TPC

    You probably are. You are also probably locked in a time-warp of sorts. It would be absolutely inaccurate to call most non-Catholics “heretics.” Modern followers of those churches were very likely never baptized Roman Catholics in the first place. They were baptized/dedicated by their parents (following family lines going back maybe several hundred years) in a religious tradition that while it may not be Roman Catholic, is certainly Christian and must be respected.

  18. From the catechism:

    818 “One cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers. All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”

    819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation.

    Dcn. G.

  19. Earlier I posted some comments about visiting the far western end of the Diocese of Grand Island Nebraska. If one drives northward along the back-roads through the Nebraska Sand-Hills from west of Paxton to the campground east of the big dam, you will pass right by an early 19th century building that was created from the very beginning to be used by both Roman Catholics and Lutherans on the same weekends.

    The log building is rectangular: On one end is the organ and choir loft and a prominent podium on a stage. On the other end is a similar stage/platform with space for an altar but also with an alcove built into the wall at that point for a tabernacle.

    It was the pews that demonstrated the creative genius of the pioneers who lived in this area. They were REVERSIBLE. By simply flipping the pew benches, a parishioner could sit faced in the one direction for Catholic Mass (with the choir and organ behind the congregation) or in the other direction, facing the organ and choir and the Protestant preacher’s podium.

  20. I know that back in the days when west of the Mississippi was the frontier, Catholics relied on priests on horseback, who may have only come once a year to baptize, perform weddings etc.
    Thanks for the beautiful story!

  21. Oops part of the above didn’t make it in there. Protestant churches allowed the priests and the Catholics to use their church as a place for the priest to hold Mass, confession.

  22. To follow-up:
    Google “Little Church of Keystone” to read the story. It is located maybe 25-30 miles to the northeast of Ogallala Nebraska.

  23. We may be Catholics but we are American’s as well. Freedom of religion is a corner stone of our society and respect taught in the Bible for others goes a long way.

    Remember when you ridicule Baptists for their “objectively false worship” (as you say), you would not appreciate the same sentiment if it was expressed about Catholicism.

  24. All of these postings about Roman Catholic and Non-Catholic worship services has gotten me to thinking. Let me see now; during my 33 years as a Roman Catholic Deacon:

    –I have been “on-ceremony” and preached (1) Once for our local United Church of Christ congregation; (2) Twice for various United Methodist Congregations; (3) Three times at “white” independent Pentecostal congregations: (4) Three times for “black” independent Pentecostal congregations; (5) And four times in Lutheran Churches.

    –I was also vested and “on ceremony” at two Lutheran Funerals and two Lutheran Weddings.

    –In that same 33 years; I have presided at 300+ Roman Catholic Communion Services; maybe 200+ Roman Catholic infant baptisms; 55 Roman Catholic weddings; and maybe 50 Roman Catholic “Free-standing” Funeral Ceremonies.

    Bottom line, certainly under 4% of all my ceremonial obligations have been in an “ecumenical” setting. I have no idea whether that ratio is higher or lower than other Roman Catholic deacons across the country.

  25. How is it that the Catholics become indifferent to truth but the Baptist become confirmed in their own tradition? How can the same act have such different consequences?

  26. Having been raised in a Christian religion, and having most of my family still following that faith, I have wonderful examples of what I consider what it means to be a Christian. Considering other faiths as not equal to what one is following is, IMO, not a Christian attitude. No agenda, Pagan or otherwise, George.

  27. My grandmother was one of the “King’s Daughters”, a group of 11 young girls who raised funds to build that church by selling fancy needlework.
    Permission from the pope was required for the interfaith church, and it was granted in a note from Pope Leo XII. I have a photo of my grandma at about age 10 embroidering a hanky for the King’s Daughters. I believe the church was dedicated around 1908.

  28. @Dcn Kandra. Thanks for citing the document. You have the positive law on your side. I was hoping for more pastoral teaching on how we reconcile using consecrated space for non-Catholic worship.
    @ Mike K: First, you are right about heresies in the Early Church. St. Peter mentions those who distort Scripture to their destruction in his letter. But, you are wrong that St. Paul was addressing people with radically different beliefs (on the necessity of baptism, the Eucharist, the sacraments, and Church itself) as Baptists and Catholics. There was one apostolic Church. If you don’t believe that, you disagree with Catholicism and the Nicene Creed.
    Secondly, calling someone “uncharitable” based on a comment which indicated no malice at people seems to be judgmental. But, I admit I may be wrong on that.
    Thirdly, you question is bogus (Would you rather they worship God in an “erroneous” form, or not at all?) I am not against anyone worshipping. My point was about cooperation with that worship and how it is inappropriate for a Catholic consecrated space to be used for non-Catholic worship. [Incidentally, I also lament that Churches are used for concert halls, etc.]
    @ George: You proved my original point about indifferentism. Why is it so hard for us Catholic Americans to understand that we can have respect for Baptists not because they are Baptists but because they are created in the image of God and baptized (I believe they use the correct sacramental formula). But, we must never respect false teachings, especially teachings which directly contradict the truth. God is truth and to respect falsehood is to show disrespect for God. I am not saying we must force the truth on others. But, we must not pretend that Catholicism is equal to false religions. And to give space makes others think we are merely searching for the truth and figure that their truth may be just as good as ours.

  29. Since none of these communities have valid orders (as a Catholic deacon I hope you accept Catholic teaching on the requisites for validity), how can you be proud to have given the people of these communities the mistaken impression that the Catholic Church regards their ministers as sacramental equals?

  30. Where did I claim to be the Magisterium?
    But, I get it. We who are not so enlightened must annoy your sagehood. Maybe anyone who disagrees with you should just not comment and then you can spend your time composing odes to yourself rather than making dismissive and smug remarks.

  31. George, when I read comments such as yours, I sometimes wonder if some of my Catholic brothers and sisters believe that God will award them bonus points for announcing, upon entry into the Kingdom, “Here I am, and I am one hundred percent unadulterated Catholic, unlike so many to my right or my left.” I’ve been Catholic all my life, and I think it’s incredibly sad to view the kingdom of heaven in that light.

    What’s happening in that chapel in Rhode Island, on the other hand, is a cause for happiness: Christian love and good cheer aplenty. Respect, compassion and empathy as well–traits that are called for repeatedly in the gospel; traits that are implicit in just about every chapter of the gospels.

  32. From your quotation it seems that if Methodist do not have a church to celebrate John and Frank’s “wedding”, the local Catholic Church could offer them their sanctuary.

    Or what if 3 times divorced Henry wants to marry lapsed Catholic and once divorced Jill in the Methodist church which just burned down last week. So the female Episcopalian minister approaches the pastor of the local Catholic Church which is the only other church in town.

    I think we’d recognize the inappropriateness of these “sharings.” Are differences in core aspects of the faith such as the sacraments and even the ministers lack of orders any less important?

  33. BTW Mike K, so “secure” in his faith, nice non sequitur at the end with the moronic (I can’t think of a better word!) question:
    “And what’s more of a scandal: abusing a child or allowing non-Catholics to worship in a Catholic church? ”
    I guess that’s the trump card with which you win the argument!

  34. Easy answer. Original sin. We all have a proclivity away from truth toward error.

    But to spell it out a bit more, Catholics seem to be giving up their principles by allowing the Baptist minister who is not ordained to use a Catholic sanctuary and preach. [Usually one needs faculties to preach. ]

    Mutatis Mutandi, the Church does not allow pro-abortion politicians to speak in Churches and Catholic Institutions even if they are not going to speak on abortion.

  35. One needs faculties to preach at Mass. One does not need faculties to preach at a non-Catholic service.

    There is no comparable prohibition on people who are not pro-abortion speaking in Catholic institutions outside of preaching in the liturgy. The prohibition on pro-abortion politicians is a red herring.It has absolutely noting to do with the case, even mutatis mutandis.

  36. Stuff and nonsense, George. Nobody gets that mistaken impression. Everybody in his right mind knows that the Baptist minister is not performing Catholic sacraments. Everybody knows that the minister does not possess Catholic orders and that he is not doing the same thing Catholic priests do. Therefore there is no question of their being sacramental equals of Catholic clergy.

  37. One thing you need to understand is that a deacon teaches/preaches/ministers within the parameters established by his own Roman Catholic Bishop — not as an independent clergy. Everything I listed above falls within a wider and broader respect of Christian denominations that is mentored by him in all sorts of unique ways.

    My bishop is identified, by many who know him better that I, as a “company-man.” He never approves anything or allows anything unless it is spelled out in wider church written policy. And ecumenical respect is so spelled out — Deacon Greg detailed many of those sections of the Catechism that apply here. There are even more sections in both the Catechisma nd in Canon Law that apply.

    BUT my Roman Catholic bishop is also very strongly committed to the ecumenical movement in some genuinely unique ways:

    –Our Roman Catholic Bishop has his own representative on the Midwest Roman Catholic-Islamic Dialogue and is on a first name basis — and a regular dinner partner — with the Iman of the largest Mosque in our diocese.

    –Our Roman Catholic Bishop also sponsored and participated in a Lutheran-Catholic Pilgrimage in October 2007 where he introduced the local Lutheran Bishop — who was also a participant in that pilgrimage — to Pope Benedict XVI in person during the Wednesday Vatican Audience that this pilgrimage group attended. That cordial meeting was considered so extraordinary that the local secular Roman daily paper made a front page article of it.

  38. Try rereading the WHOLE New Testament and not just the parts that fit your worldview. Catholicism is not mere humanism. Too many people want to reduce Christianity to a common ethic and fudge it on doctrine. Compassion and empathy stem from truth which means we can’t pretend that orthodoxy is mere window dressing. Without correctness of faith, there ultimately cannot be a sustained correctness of morals and life. Traditional Catholics don’t think they are better Catholics. They merely are compelled in conscience to point out that right action requires right belief. Of course, this upsets the flow and leads the self-righteous Saducees of today who have compromised with the world to accuse them of self-righteousness. But, Jesus Christ was pretty definitive about right belief.

  39. The point? Considering that the Vatican officially allows this sort of sharing of facilities, do you conclude that they have abandoned the faith and Rome is apostate? Or do the people who are upset at this need to readjust their thinking and get in sync with the Church?

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