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...]

LIGHTING ONE CANDLE A Meditation on a Path of Hope in a Despairing World


LIGHTING ONE CANDLE A Meditation on a Path of Hope in A Despairing WorldJames Ishmael Ford14 December 2014First Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandTextA candle is a small thing. But one candle can light another. And see how it’s own light increases, as a candle gives its flame to the other. You are such a light.Moshe Davis & Victor RatnerThis Thursday evening we hosted the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence’s annual Voice for Victims observance, … [Read more...]

Haunted by Ella Baker and Something She Once Said

Ella Baker

Ella Josephine Baker was born on this day in 1903.Described as "one of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement."She was a genuine American hero. And hers a life worth celebrating.And.She once said, "Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother's sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until … [Read more...]

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...]