Laura Neal and Rob Benson will have a conversation about Zen Buddhism and Christianity at College of the Atlantic on Jan. 24. ISLANDER FILE PHOTOS

Dialogue to explore Zen Buddhism, Christianity

BAR HARBOR — Bar Harbor Congregational Church pastor Rob Benson and Zen Buddhism teacher Laura Neal will have a conversation about Christianity, Buddhism and the state of religion today in the Deering Common Community Center at College of the Atlantic on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 4 p.m. All are invited to join this free discussion.

Benson and Neal will invite participants to consider the role of religion in today’s volatile American culture, and whether those in the West are turning to Eastern practices as an alternative to America’s “default” religions. They may address these questions: Is modern Christianity moving further away from or closer toward the teachings of Jesus Christ? Are Western and Eastern traditions compatible with each other? How can religion help people navigate societal ills like inequality, violence and discrimination?

Benson and his family have lived on Mount Desert Island since 2002. He loves music and swimming, especially outside. His wife, Cristy, teaches physics and chemistry and manages the lab at College of the Atlantic. Their sons, Peter and Jacob, attend Mount Desert Island High School and Mount Desert Elementary and are active in local music, robotics and sports programs. They all live in Bar Harbor with their two cats, Purrfect and Luke, along with a dog Echo.

Neal is a teacher in the True Nature Zen Center sangha in Bar Harbor, a welcoming community of practitioners. The sangha is part of the Five Mountain Zen Order in the tradition of Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn. All are welcome to join.

College of the Atlantic is the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in human ecology, the study of how humans interact with the natural, social and technological environments. Each student develops their own course of study in human ecology, collaborating and innovating across multiple disciplines. Both The Sierra Club and The Princeton Review named College of the Atlantic the No. 1 Green College in the United States in 2016 and 2017. Visit


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