Remembering Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, A True Pastor of the People

Remembering Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, A True Pastor of the People

This weekend Los Angeles lost a great leader in the passing of the Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, Pastor of Los Angeles’ oldest Black congregation First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME). We were honored to call him our dear friend, colleague, and Advisor to The Guibord Center.

In 2012, the Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord invited Rev. Murray to discuss his autobiography, Twice Tested by Fire: A Memoir of Faith and Service, his memoir about the inspiration and challenges that shaped his ministry. 

“I am here, on this stage, to bear witness that the Lord will make a path somehow,” said Rev. Murray during the interview, adding that “you can’t make a change from the outside. If you are going to make a difference, you have to get on the inside.”

Getting on the inside is exactly what Rev. Murray did as he brought the living presence of Jesus to a city in shambles. Widely credited with helping to heal a fractured metropolis in the aftermath of the 1992 LA Uprising, he preached the words we needed to hear, and he did the work of addressing injustice in the neighborhoods surrounding the church and beyond.

Rev. Murray passionately advocated for those who do not have a voice, working tirelessly to help the Black community take on “The Four Ps” of Poverty: Poverty of Pocket, Poverty of Family, Poverty of Education, and Poverty of Imaging.

Immediately after the uprising, Rev. Murray led FAME in creating a prison ministry, which partnered with USC, UCLA, Temple Isaiah and others to provide free legal counseling and create innovative outreach programs. He also created and fundraised for 13 housing projects that provided homes to more than 2,000 people, including individuals with physical disabilities, seniors, people living with HIV/AIDS, and those struggling to make ends meet. 

Rev. Murray also oversaw the creation of FAME Renaissance, a nonprofit focused on economic development programs, to support businesses from the ground up, raising $400 million for business incubation, loans, and mentoring. Among his many other contributions were medical outreach programs to Africa, youth programs, and HIV/AIDS programs at a time when basic compassion, let alone support, for those suffering was rare. 

Rev. Murray’s friendship, guidance, and faithful leadership will be sorely missed. He was a stalwart of the community, and we hope that we may all live on in how he treated and cared for one another. We give thanks for his extraordinary life.

A Moment of Reflection and Intention at the End of the Year

A Moment of Reflection and Intention at the End of the Year

A Moment of Reflection and Intention at the End of the Year

by Dr. Lo Sprague, President of The Guibord Center

As I sit here at year’s end, I find myself grappling with how to describe this past year at The Guibord Center. You know us for our commitment to bringing people together through events — from stunning, large public gatherings with diverse spiritual leaders to smaller programs set within the intimate heart of temples and synagogues, gurdwaras and mosques, churches, and ashrams. You have experienced our concerts of joyous, sacred music, the building of the Mandala of Compassion, and conversations where colleagues share how their faith provides tools for meeting some of today’s most complex challenges.

What you’ve never seen is our inward-facing work. In 2023, we spent most of our time and energy listening deeply and productively, making friends, making plans, building trust, coalitions, stamina, and strategies to use in the coming days. These spaces have become an intimate refuge and think tank for colleagues of different backgrounds. In these conversations, they can dream and plan or vent and rage and have their unspoken heartfelt concerns heard — and valued.

Weeks ago, a number of us began to meet following the horror of the October 7th massacre. Everyone was shaken to their core. We listened and wept and gradually began to create a program so that communities could grieve together. A lot of time and work had gone into this when one of the participants said quietly: “It’s too soon.” We all stopped. We thought about what she’d said. She was right. It was a great program, and it was too early. The deaths kept coming. Everything had to focus there. We had to postpone.

This is the heart and soul of interfaith work, activism, and standing with and for one another in times like these. We have to hear each other. The Guibord Center has always looked through a spiritual lens that sees situations and individuals as part of something sacred and larger than just ourselves. That’s the essence of our mission.

We have much planned for 2024. Bringing people together to challenge assumptions, embrace the sacred (in one another), and live out of the Spirituality that transforms the world is the most important thing we can do. We are rolling out programs that will lift your spirits and heal your heart. Our very special “Take Heart” program, which will be launched shortly, is part of that healing.

We end the year giving thanks for each of you, for those who serve on our board of directors and our advisory council, our strategic advisors, and our team of dedicated staff and volunteers, as well as our many friends and colleagues here in southern California and across the country – and this year, thanks to ANIMA – around the globe. Thank you for your support in so many forms. You have given not only your funds but also your time, tools and talent, your wisdom and valuable guidance, your perspectives, encouragement, and prayers that keep us going.

Remembering Peter Rood

Remembering Peter Rood

Remembering Peter Rood

by Dr. Lo Sprague, President of The Guibord Center

With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of our dear friend and longtime colleague, the Reverend Peter Rood. Peter loved people. All people. Long before he joined the Board of Directors of The Guibord Center as a founding member, he and Gwynne worked together, pursuing their mutual delight in bringing people of diverse backgrounds together in friendship and meaningful community.

Gwynne asked Peter to serve with her on the Bishop’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Concerns for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. And he did, bringing many others with him. Together they helped the diocese become a force in growing the ecumenical and interfaith community. One of the many gifts he shared was to serve as the Christian voice in the “Abrahamic Blessing” that opened The Guibord Center‘s Inaugural Program in February of 2011. Please listen to Peter here

Peter was a remarkable priest. He turned the unused grounds of Holy Nativity Church in Westchester into a community garden. He fed all who were hungry in spirit to generous community meals at the church, inviting people from different faith traditions to break bread and share their stories. He brought strangers together who went on to become lifelong friends. 

In the early days of the Center, Gwynne and Peter sat down to talk on film about fasting during Lent and Ramadan. You can view their conversation here: “One Christian’s Loving Response to Ramadan” with the Reverend Peter Rood.

One day I remember Gwynne pointing out a member of the St. John’s Cathedral Choir and then returning my gaze to Peter, smiling across the room.

 “He doesn’t know he’s in love yet,” she said, nodding toward his future wife.

Peter and Kristen shared an extraordinary love, and everyone who knew them rejoiced in the union of those two gentle souls. The light left his eyes when Kristen died in 2022. Now we pray it has returned as they are united.

How blessed we are that Peter touched and changed our lives. May he rest in peace.


Honoring the Life of Venerable Master Hsing Yun

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Honoring the Life of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Founder of Fo Guang Shan

News is spreading quickly around the world of the death of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Founder of the Fo Guang Shan. Our hearts go out to the Abbot of Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, the Venerable Hui Dong, his monks and staff, and our many Buddhist friends and colleagues throughout the world.

Upon hearing of his death, I thought back to Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s wonderful bright presence in the exquisite 5-minute film, “Be the Light”. The film was produced and shared by his community to give guidance and hope in the darkest, most desperate days of Covid, and is infused with all the compassion and care, beauty and kindness that was the essence of his life and teachings.

Be the Light. That was his message, his life, his legacy.

Please watch and then – Be the Light. There is no greater way to honor Venerable Master Hsing Yun

Dr. Lois M. Sprague, Ph.D.,  President
The Guibord Center – Religion Inside Out

Remembering Independence Day

Remembering Independence Day

Independence Day Flag

Remembering Independence Day

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, let us take a moment to recognize that the forefathers of this nation signed the Declaration of Independence with their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

They pledged everything they had to pursue the idea that no one man was better than any other. Their vision was limited to their time and place. It ignored women, children, people of color, and The Indigenous. Those were to come later in a struggle that continues to this day.

What would you treasure so dearly that you would offer up your life, fortune, and sacred honor to bring it into being?  For our forefathers, it was the revolutionary realization that kings were no better than anyone else and that there was inherent value in the commoner. They fought for democracy, the greater good as they understood it, and the rule of law.

May we do no less.

Dr. Lois M. Sprague, Ph.D., President
The Guibord Center – Religion Inside Out