James has walked the spiritual path for more than fifty years. He's danced with Sufis, studied with Gnostics, lived in a Buddhist monastery and was ordained a Zen priest. Later he also ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister and preached from the high pulpits in old New England churches. James has reflected on and written books about spirituality and at the same time has worked in the trenches for social justice.
He is a co-founder of the Boundless Way Zen network, and was its first school abbot. Today he is the senior priest and resident teacher of the Empty Moon Zen Network, which meets in Long Beach and Costa Mesa.
James served as a UU parish minister for twenty-five years, and is minister-emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Providence. Starting in April, 2019, he serves part time as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim.
For James Zen's teachings, especially as presented within the Heart Sutra, blending with the currents of rational and liberal religion, provides the foundation of his understanding of the world and our human hearts. For a little of what this looks like, go here.
He is married to Jan Seymour-Ford. Jan is a retired librarian active in various social justice projects, primarily through the UU Church of Long Beach. She is also a senior dharma teacher with Boundless Way Zen. They live with their three-legged cat Cassie in the Alamitos Beach neighborhood of Long Beach, California.
A High School drop-out when James considers what might be his alma mater, he has come to feel it would have to be a combination of those early monastic years blending together with near two decades working in used bookstores up and down the California coast.
Along the way he has earned some degrees and certificates. Particularly significant:
B.A. (Psychology) Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA 1987 M.Div. Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA 1991 M.A. (Philosophy of Religion) P.S.R., 1992 Clinical Pastoral Education unit, 1990
His Ordinations & Authorizations:
Shukke Tokudo (novice priest ordination), Oakland, California, July, 1969, by Houn Jiyu Kennett, Roshi Denkai/Denbo transmission (full ordination and authorization as a teacher), Mt Shasta, California, 1971, Houn Jiyu Kennett, Roshi Minister, Unitarian Universalist, Mequon, Wisconsin, October, 1991, by the Congregation of the Unitarian Church North Ministerial Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist Association, 1991 (Final Fellowship in 1994) Dharma Heritage (recognition as a senior teacher in North American Soto Zen), 2004, Clatskanie, Oregon, Soto Zen Buddhist Association Inka Shomei (final authorization as a koan Zen teacher), 2005, Worcester, MA, by John Nanryu Ji'un-ken Tarrant, Roshi
James also holds ordinations within the independent sacramental tradition as well as several initiations within Inayat Khan Universalist Sufism.
(If you would like to know more of his path and life, please go here, or here.)