James W. Kershner founded the Cape Sangha on Nov. 16, 1997, by inviting interested people to come to his home in Dennis, Mass., to practice mindfulness meditation in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.
Kershner was born in 1948 in Silver Spring, Md., the son of a scientist and an artist. In his childhood, he attended Lutheran and Methodist churches. He earned a bachelor's degree at Marietta College in 1970. It was during his college years in the late '60s that he first became interested in meditation.
He also was interested in journalism, and - after serving in the Navy from 1971 to 1974 - he went on to earn a master's degree in journalism from Penn State University. In a 30-year newspaper career, he was staff reporter for the Providence Journal, city editor of the Carlisle (PA) Sentinel, Sunday editor of the Cape Cod Times, and (most recently) executive editor of the four weeklies on Cape Cod of the Community Newspaper Co.
In 2001 he switched from the newsroom to the classroom and began teaching full-time At Cape Cod Community College he teaches journalism, mass communication, English composition and technical writing, and advises the student newspaper staff. He also teaches advanced journalism classes for Suffolk University's program on Cape Cod, and does some feee-lance writing. He is the author if The Elements of News Writing, a journalism textbook published by Allyn & Bacon in 2004.
His early interest in meditation was rekindled by a mid-life crisis in 1990, when he began seeking a life with more meaning and less stress. He took classes in yoga and meditation and read extensively. Cape Cod teachers who helped him in the 1990s included Allison Atwood, Ed Hardy, Dan McCullough, Dee Burlin and Ruth Fishel.
In 1997 he attended a six-day retreat at Omega Institute led by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, peacemaker, scholar, teacher, author and poet. Thich Nhat Hanh urged all 800 people attending the retreat to join sanghas near their homes. "If there is no sangha near your home, start one," he said. Unsure of whether he was qualified to undertake such a mission, Kershner decided to practice walking meditation in the hope that an answer would come to him. Walking along a path in the wooded campus at Omega, Kershner looked up and found himself face-to-face with Thich Nhat Hanh, who had also chosen that moment to practice walking meditation along the same path. Wordlessly the two bowed. That was Oct. 22, 1997.Three weeks later the Cape Sangha began. It has been meeting twice a month ever since.
Since then, Kershner has attended annual retreats led by Thich Nhat Hanh. He has also attended numerous other Buddhist retreats, workshops, talks and days of mindfulness. He received the five Mindfulness Trainings, making him a member of the extended Community of the Order of Interbeing, on Oct. 24, 1997, and was given the lineage name "Peacemaker Calling of the Heart. After several years of aspirantship under the guidance of Dharma Teachers Jack Lawlor and Joanne Friday, he received the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and was ordained as a member of the core community of the Order of Interbeing on August 16, 2002. In that ordination ceremony he was given the dharma name Chan An Hoa "True Peaceful Reconciliation."
Kershner passes on what he has learned in numerous talks and workshops and several newspaper articles. He has planned and organized annual Days of Mindfulness on Cape Cod. He works as a volunteer Buddhist chaplain at Cape Cod Hospital and meets regularly with a group of clergy and other spiritual leaders known as the Cape Cod Interfaith Coalition.
May 9, 2004