The Religion We Really Need.

child blowing planet bubbles

I see that it was on this day in 1170 that Thomas Becket, one time tool of the king Henry II, and later thorn in his side in an interesting if generally antique argument over the relationship between church and state where neither were particularly concerned for the actual people under the thumb of state & church died a bloody death, possibly following a casual remark from the king.At the same time on my Facebook feed I noticed an article about the rise of the new atheism linked and with a … [Read more...]

Doug Phillips Receives Dharma Transmission Within the Zen Tradition

Doug Phillips & James Ford

I'm so pleased to be able to announce that on the evening of December 20th, I completed denbo, formal Dharma transmission with Doug Phillips, authorizing him as an independent Zen teacher.Doug and I began studying koans within the Harada Yasutani style together a decade ago, and I gave him denkai, the first step in Dharma transmission within the Soto school last year.Doug has been a student of Zen for more than thirty years, studying previously with Maureen Stuart and George … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday, Bob!


According to the good folk at Wikipedia the very first record of a Christmas celebration took place in Rome on this day in 336.While it is past unlikely Jesus was born on this date, one of the heroes of my youth Robert Ripley was, in 1890.His cartoons occupied my imagination throughout my childhood, opening doors to the weird, the fantastic and the unlikely.For which I remain eternally grateful... … [Read more...]

A Christmas Eve Meditation

First Unitarian Christmas Eve 2014

A CHRISTMAS EVE MEDITATION24 December 2014James Ishmael FordFirst Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandWe’ve just received a lovely letter from our sister congregation in Transylvania, written by their minister the Rev. Szabolcs Kelemen. Let me share it with you.One hundred years ago, on 24th December, the world changed. It was a unique experience of love between people. World War I was a destructive war. On that day, although the politics of war existed, things were d … [Read more...]

Charles Dickens, His Christmas Carol, & Those Three Spirits: a Christmas Eve Meditation

ignorance and want

I find myself thinking of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, and how it has come to shape so much of what we in our contemporary culture all understand Christmas to be about.Some of my friends read the original story aloud annually. That may be more than you want to do. But I hope watching one of the versions on television is a part of your holiday tradition. And if not, I hope you’ll consider it. Even the worst of them, the ones that emphasize the melodrama of it bring something lovely into … [Read more...]

Thinking of Murder

Police Badge

I find myself thinking of the tragic murders of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.Police work is hard and dangerous.And I think about how the murderer, a troubled soul if there ever was one, chose to claim his evil act was some sort of revenge for the killing of unarmed black men.I saw some ugly things written about the police officers. I saw more ugly things come up as people have found a way to shift the subject that has been presented so forcefully over the past weeks that … [Read more...]


Christmas Pageant

A MULTIGENERATIONAL, ALMOST TRADITIONAL, CHRISTMAS PAGEANTAs Celebrated at theFirst Unitarian Church of Providence(This service was first based upon one originally designed for the First Parish in Cambridge, heavily re-written by Noreen Kimball & James Ford, and later further edited by James Ford & Cathy Seggel)***(Holy family, star, wise people all gather early to the “front” of the church. One stage manager should go down to the platform, others to the “front” of the church. … [Read more...]

It Kicks off with the Saturnalia

Enthusiasts And Reenactors Parade Through The Streets Of Chester As Part Of Their Roman Saturnalia Festival Celebrations

The good folk at Wikipedia assert that on this day in 497 before our common era the Romans first celebrated the Saturnalia. It occurred at the dedication of a temple to Saturn, god of agriculture, and marked the beginning of a farmer's festival, itself the beginning of the autumn planting (warm climate in Rome...)A look at this holiday with its exchanging of gifts and its recurring images of light within the dark, the birth of a new year, and with that new possibility, gives us a pretty good … [Read more...]

A Feast for Architects & an Artist

FUSN exterior

Ever since I first noticed it I've been enchanted with the fact the Episcopal church in the US observes a festival in honor of two architects, Ralph Adams Cram and Richard Upjohn and an artist, John La Farge.For me the delight that artistic endeavor is considered saintly is doubled by the fact one of the architects named in the festival, Mr Cram, also built a church that I served, the First Unitarian Society of Newton, MA, between 2000 & 2008.The prayer included for this occasion, in … [Read more...]

Noting our American Bill of Rights Day


After years of struggle, James Madison's wonderful idea to attach a Bill of Rights to the Constitution prevailed. And it was on this day in 1791 the Bill was ratified.In 1941, marking the 150th anniversary of the ratification, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that henceforth December 15 would be celebrated as Bill of Rights Day.No doubt a flawed document. And on occasion even more flawed in its interpretation...People were and continue to be involved, after … [Read more...]