A Voice For the Victims of Gun Violence

voice for victims

An evening to provide a voice for the victims of gun violence at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Thursday, 12 December, 2014. Video by Steve Ahlquist. … [Read more...]

Happy B’Day, Big Mama!

Willie Mae Thornton, better known to many of us as Big Mama, was born on this day in 1926. She was the first to record "Hound Dog," which, as many know, became one of Elvis Presley's biggest hits. She had a similar experience with "Ball 'n' Chain," which later catapulted Janis Joplin to fame. … [Read more...]

John Murray & the Gospel of Love

John Murray

The great Universalist preacher and theologian John Murray was born on this day in 1741. In honor of that occasion I am reprinting my 2012 sermon on the Reverend Mr Murray and his wondrous good news...THE HEART OF THE MATTER John Murray and the Gospel of LoveJames Ishmael Ford4 March 2012 First Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandTextThough I speak with the tongues of people and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And … [Read more...]

Gautama Sees the Morning Star: a Rohatsu Meditation


It’s hard to know anything with certainty about antiquity. Okay, perhaps that’s true for today, as well. But, history blends with myth much more completely with the old stories. Sometimes myth completely overtakes history.And, for a sacred text it doesn’t really matter, because these texts are not history books, but rather maps of the heart.A good example is the life of the Buddha. Gautama Siddhartha lived somewhere between the sixth and fourth centuries before the common era near what t … [Read more...]

We are of the Nature to Die

uss arizona survivors

Over my life I've watched how the observances of December 7th, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the beginning of our American involvement in the Second World War have slowed down. Once banner headlines on every newspaper, today, well today there barely are newspapers.Among those stories I did see was one about the gathering of survivors of the attack who were on the USS Arizona. There are nine left, four present at the event. The story was nearly as much about how this was going to be the … [Read more...]

How to Live Forever: a Meditation on the Heart Sutra


I love the Heart Sutra.I adore the Heart Sutra.Among those many books and poems and spiritual texts that have informed my life, the one which I find at the very center of my understanding of the way things are, is the Heart Sutra.Anyone who visits any Zen center throughout North America has heard it. The Heart Sutra is very short and its message is telegraphed so fast the subtlety and depth of its teaching can easily be missed. The fact that it ends with a mantra, a sacred phrase can … [Read more...]

Sutra Means Thread


"I remember a select little group with which we traveled and camped together for some days; this group had undertaken to liberate some captive League brothers and the Princess Isabella from the hands of the Moors. It was said that they were in possession of Hugo's horn, and among them were my friends the poet Lauscher and the artists Klingsor and Paul Klee; they spoke of nothing else but Africa and the captured princess, and their Bible was the book of the deeds of Don Quixote, in whose honor … [Read more...]

INDICTMENT A Meditation on the Empire & a Promised Land

Moses beholds murder of Israelite

INDICTMENT A Meditation on the Empire and a Promised LandJames Ishmael Ford30 November 2014First Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandTextWhen the spirit struck us free we could scarcely believe it for very joy.Were we free were we wrapt in a dream of freedom?Our mouths were filled with laughter our tongues with pure joyThe oppressors were awestruck;What marvels the Lord works for them!Like a torrent in flood our people steamed out.Locks, … [Read more...]

Clive & Madeleine are Born


Two noted Christian writers were born on this day. Clive Staples Lewis was born in 1898 & twenty years later Madeleine L’Engle in 1918.Madeleine L’Engle was an American Episcopalian, and a forthright universalist, which has caused her some trouble with orthodox Christian bookstores, which are reluctant to stock her writings. She is best known for her young adult novels, and particularly A Wrinkle in Time and its four sequels.C. S. Lewis was a member of the Inklings, an informal Oxford li … [Read more...]

Celebrating the Feast of Sts Barlaam & Josaphat

Today is our American Thanksgiving.And thanks to the way different holidays are marked out, in the case of Thanksgiving falling as it does on the fourth Thursday in November, this year also happens to be my favorite religious holiday.The 27th of November in the calendar of the Roman Catholic church as well as for those of the Eastern Churches who follow the revised Julian calendar, this is the feast of Sts Barlaam and Josaphat.The Orthodox who continue to use the Julian calendar … [Read more...]