Undying Friendship and a Buddhist Memorial

Undying Friendship and a Buddhist Memorial April 4, 2014

On Sunday, February 23rd, I had the privilege of attending my friend Eugene Woodworth’s memorial service at Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon.

We did not share worldviews or lifestyles, but we did share friendship and a common humanity.

Eugene and fellow Buddhist Eric Marcoux (a Buddhist teacher in the Kagyu/Tibetan tradition) were married in Vancouver, WA on December 12th after being together for sixty years. Eugene died days later of cardiac failure on December 21st.

The temple was filled with people who had come to remember Eugene. Eric, always full of wit and humor, led with reflections before providing the opportunity for all of us gathered to share our thoughts about Eugene.

My colleague, Brad Harper, at Multnomah University, and I sat there as Eric and others shared. We have gathered together for several years at Dharma Rain and other places with our Buddhist friends like Abbots Kyogen and Gyokuko Carlson of Dharma Rain, Eric and Eugene, and fellow Evangelical Christians. We are brought together to discuss our respective convictions and distinctive stories against the backdrop of culture wars that would tear us apart. Tonight will be no different as a small group of Buddhists and Evangelical Christians will come together to talk about our convictions and stories over food and drink.

I look forward to seeing Eric this evening. I look forward to sharing with him how touched I was by the memorial. Not only was I impressed with the thoughtful remembrances of Eugene by so many people, but also I was impressed with Eric’s closing words of appreciation for his and Eugene’s friendship with the Evangelicals gathered there for the memorial.

I had not planned to share out of respect for the Buddhists gathered together to remember one of their own. But when Eric referred to Brad and me by name and expressed his gratitude to us, I knew that it would be appropriate to share. I stood up and spoke of the richness of Eugene’s humanity and of what his and Eric’s friendship have meant to us. We will never be the same.

Straight and narrow way Evangelicals like Brad and me and Gay and liberal men like Buddhists Eric and Eugene do not have to share worldviews and lifestyles to be close. Our shared humanity and respect for human dignity bring us together. Our respective convictions and distinctive stories come face to face every so often over coffee, tea and food and strengthen the bonds of friendship that no culture war can efface.

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