Kitchen of Hope is tomorrow, Saturday, 11 February. Contact Vivian H. (856-366-8461) if you’d like to help!
Paying Attention to Black Voices
February Feature: Absalom Jones and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
The story of Absalom Jones is one many of us can relate to: a tale of struggle, perseverance, hard work, faith and accomplishment. Absalom, born a slave in 1746 in Delaware, would have been confined to a lifetime of servitude under normal expectations for blacks in the 1700s. But, as fate would have it, his slave owner recognized his intelligence at an early age and reassigned him to be trained for house duties, which afforded him the opportunity to learn to read. As a teen, Absalom would move to Philadelphia with his owner, allowing him to attend night school and earn an education. In 1784, Absalom was released from slavery.
Absalom was one of the first African American men able to obtain a Methodist license to preach and would begin his life in ministry at St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Although slavery had been legally abolished in Pennsylvania in 1780, racial prejudice was still prevalent and affected the black members of the congregation. After a seating dispute during Sunday worship, black members officially left St. George’s Church and began holding services at the newly established Free African Society, an organization founded by Absalom Jones and Richard Allen designed to assist newly freed slaves. Finally, in 1794, the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first African American church in Philadelphia, officially opened. A few years later, Absalom Jones was ordained as the first African American priest of the Episcopal Church in 1802.
The life and work of Absalom Jones is still honored to this day. Annually, Episcopal churches around our nation recognize Absalom’s significant contributions with sermons, tributes, and celebrations. Our Episcopal church calendar designates February 13 as the Feast of Absalom Jones. May we all take a moment of reflection and read this small passage from “A Thanksgiving Sermon” delivered by Absalom to his followers so many years ago:
“Let the history of the sufferings of our brethren, and of their deliverance, descend by this means to our children, to the remotest generations; and when they shall ask, in time to come, saying, What mean the lessons, the psalms, the prayers and the praises in the worship of this day? Let us answer them, by saying, the Lord, on the day of which this is the anniversary, abolished the trade which dragged your fathers from their native country, and sold them as bondmen in the United States of America.”
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry writes: Every February 13th we celebrate the feast of Blessed Absalom Jones, the first African American to be ordained in The Episcopal Church. In the last few years, we have adopted the feast of our beloved brother as an opportunity for us as a Church and as members of God’s “whole human family” to support our two Episcopal HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) in his honor – Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, NC, and Voorhees University in Denmark, SC. Founded as a witness to Jesus Christ and his way of love, by providing moral and spiritual nurture and educational opportunities for formerly enslaved people after the Civil War, SAU and Voorhees have continued to form and nurture countless numbers of talented young people and changed innumerable lives.
To learn more or offer donations, go to http://iam.ec/ajf
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Lectionary readings for this week: Sirach 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37, Psalm 119:1-8
Lectionary readings for next week: Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9, Psalm 2
Please continue in your daily prayers for: Dennis, Marge, Joann, Lou, Jennifer, Mary Esther, Cameron, Joe, Jane, Lori, Richard, Bea, Sue, Emma, Phyllis, Lenore, John, Jamie, Laura, Judy, Becky, Cindy, Heather, Bill
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