The History of Red Rose Sangha

The sitting group that would eventually become the Red Rose Sangha began in 1993 when Rick Kent, an Art History professor at Franklin & Marshall College, decided to start a group on campus modeled after a meditation group he attended while studying at Princeton. Rick’s primary influences were Chinese Ch’an and Japanese Zen Buddhism.

Current IssueIn the first two years the group was largely comprised of F&M students. Over time, members of the greater Lancaster community joined and eventually made up the majority of attendees, although the group continued to meet at F&M. Over the next decade, the Sangha met in various buildings on campus, including Distler, the Alumni House, and Diagnothian Hall. Occasionally we would meet in members’ homes. While we no longer sit at F&M, we continue to have professors, staff, and alumni in the group.

During the late 1990s Phil and Paula Gable organized additional Sangha programs. Zazen and a Mindful Meal, a period of meditation followed by a meal the Gables prepared, met at the Lancaster Theological Seminary, and Dharma Discussion, a monthly book discussion group, met at the Unitarian Universalist Church (UUCL). About 2000 we began occasional all-day sittings, and we selected “Red Rose Sangha” as a formal name for our informal group.

In May 2004, when we lost our sitting space at F&M due to building redesign, Barbara And Tim Harkleroad, longtime members of the Sangha and the UUCL, spoke on our behalf to the Church. The UUCL graciously agreed to take us in under their Lifespan Learning program and allow us to use Emerson Hall on Sunday Evenings. In 2007/2008 we were moved under their broad Worship ministry. Since 2007 the Sangha has hosted a visiting teacher for a Day of Silence (Zazenkai) at least once a year at the UUCL. A monthly text study program, intended as an additional component of practice, was introduced in 2009.

Over the next decade, our sangha evolved in a variety of ways through the introduction of Buddhist liturgy, koan contemplation, sutra study, and community outreach projects.  Further, we offer quarterly, day-long retreats known as zazenkai. Throughout the year, longer retreats are held jointly with other White Plum Sanghas, including the Zen Community of Baltimore, Soji Zen Center, and the Flowing River Sangha.

In June 2014, Edward Sangetsu Sullivan was recognized as a teacher (sensei) in the White Plum Lineage of Zen and was ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 2016.  In addition to being recognized as a member of the White Plum Asanga, the Red Rose Sangha is also a member of the Zen Peacemakers International Organization established by Roshi Bernie Glassman.